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Food Habits Studied in Children of Working Parents

Study suggests that time constraints may make healthy lifestyles difficult

FRIDAY, Oct. 2 (HealthDay News) -- Children whose mothers work full-time or part-time are more likely to have unhealthy eating habits compared to the offspring of stay-at-home mothers, according to a study published online Sept. 29 in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

Summer Sherburne Hawkins, Ph.D., of the Institute of Child Health in London, and colleagues analyzed data on 12,576 singleton five-year-old children, which included information on their dietary and physical habits as well as their mothers' employment patterns.

The study showed that children of part-time or full-time working mothers were more likely to have two hours or more of computer and television time, to drink sweetened drinks between meals rather than other drinks, and to be driven to school rather than walking or cycling. In addition, full-time working mothers' children were less likely to eat healthy snacks between meals or at least three portions of fruit a day.

"Time constraints may limit parents' capacity to provide their children with healthy foods and opportunities for physical activity. Although we found that flexible work arrangements were not detrimental, they are unlikely to be important in helping parents support the development of positive health behaviors in their children," the authors write. "Our results do not imply that mothers should not work. Rather they highlight the need for policies and programs to help support parents."

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