Parents, take note! Researchers have found that parent and child diet quality are related in significant ways, a connection that could lead to better strategies to address obesity and related conditions such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
“Unfortunately people are not doing very well in terms of diet quality. Parents had better diet quality than kids, but only by a little bit,” said Shannon Robson from University of Delaware in the US.
The analysis draws on data from a study that looked at 698 parent-child duos to better understand obesity and related behaviours. The children were 6 to 12 years old, when the study was done from 2007 to 2009.
Preliminary screenings excluded anyone with a chronic illness that affects growth, an eating disorder, medically prescribed dietary regimens or psychiatric disorders.
To get a sampling of dietary practice, researchers looked at up to three random days of eating data for each twosome, including at least one weekday and one weekend day.
More than 98% of participants reported three days of dietary data, researchers said.
They analysed the data using the Healthy Eating Index of 2010 (HEI-2010), the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) score, and energy density (calories per gramme of food).
The HEI-2010 looks at 12 dietary components, including empty calories, to assess overall quality, while the DASH score looks at eight food groups to measure intake of foods groups like vegetables, fruit and low-fat dairy products.
Overall, parents had a higher score on both measures of diet quality, but on average managed just 64.5% of optimal levels on the HEI-2010 and just 56.6% of the optimal DASH score, researchers said.
Kids averaged 58.3 and 54.3%, respectively, they said.
Caloric intake was more similar, with children eating an average of 1,751 calories per day and parents 1,763.
After controlling for demographics, neighbourhood type and body-mass index, researchers found parental diet to be the strongest predictor of a child’s diet quality.
They found two clear culprits for poorer diet quality among children - too few vegetables and too many empty calories.
Parent and child diet are related in significant ways, a connection that could lead to better strategies to address the growing public health problems of obesity and related conditions such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes, researchers said.
The findings were published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.