TUESDAY, June 28, 2011 (HealthDay News) -- Many members of low-income families are not getting proper nutrition in their diet, a new study shows.
In assessing the families' eating patterns and the nutritional value of their meals, the researchers found that more than 70 percent of the 100 families, who were newly enrolled in the Nebraska Nutrition Education Program, failed to consume adequate amounts of several vital nutrients, including vitamins A and C, protein, calcium and iron.
The study, published in the June issue of the Family & Consumer Sciences Research Journal, also found that most of these families didn't eat meals together on a regular basis.
While the majority of families studied gathered for dinner at least five times each week, breakfast and lunch were eaten as a family at most four times a week, and sometimes less. Roughly 43 percent of the study participants said their families ate breakfast and lunch together just two or fewer times per week.
The researchers suggested that the lack of family mealtime was a major contributing factor to their nutritional deficiencies. Eating together more often, particularly at breakfast, might help tackle the problem, they noted.
"Nutrients we get from these food groups -- such as calcium, folate, potassium, vitamin C and vitamin A -- are critical in the diets of young children and are often lacking in the diet of limited-income children," study author Wanda Koszewski, University of Nebraska-Lincoln extension associate professor of nutrition and health sciences, said in a university news release. "Due to the fast-paced lifestyle of many families, not having breakfast together makes it difficult to meet these nutrients later in the day."
In increasing the frequency of family breakfasts, families would be more likely to eat essential foods from the milk group, fruits and fruit juices, the authors asserted. The findings could help food and nutrition professionals counsel families on how they could alter their eating patterns and improve their nutrition.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more on nutrition.