Parents' Job Security Stress Tilts Unhealthy Eating

The HealthGal Health Guide
  • A new study finds that children’s nutrition is affected by “parents worrying about job security,” with results suggesting that the more stress parents grapple with, the more likely the kids are eating unhealthy meals. 


    The research looked at data compiled from a study of more than 3700 parents of teens living in an urban Midwestern area.  During the study about 64% of the dads and 46% of the moms of these teens had employment.  In households that had fulltime working moms, there were fewer family meals, more fast food, fewer moments where parents encouraged the teens to eat healthier choices, and less fruit and vegetable consumption was noted.  There was also less prep time spent on food, compared to households where moms worked part-time or were not employed.  Looking at the fathers’ employment in relation to kids’ eating patterns, it was noted that in the households of full-time employed fathers, there was less time spent on food preparation, when compared to households of part-time workers, or unemployed dads.

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    Not surprisingly, mother’s spent more time on meal preparation, regardless of their work status compared to the dads.  Mothers who experienced “high stress levels” served on average, four family meals weekly, compared to those with lower stress levels who served 5.5 meals weekly.  Fathers with high stress levels had 4 meals with the family weekly, compared to dads with lower stress levels who had closer to 6 meal weekly.  Experts in nutrition are not that surprised by the results.  It makes sense that if you are stressed on the job, you may be choosing to stay longer hours to get work done or simply to appear more productive and devoted to the job, or you may be coming home utterly drained and unable to cope with at home responsibilities, like mealtime. 


    The solution from my perspective is simple.  Plan ahead, involve all family members, cook ahead on a designated day and prepare entrees for the full week. Multi-tasking with leftovers for lunch the next day will help finances too.  Learn a few easy recipes that use wholesome, tasty healthy ingredients and make sure the necessary items are handy and ready to be assembled quickly at dinner time.  Consider using the “bar” method meaning salad bars, wrap bars, pasta bars – allowing you to simply put out the ingredients that have been prepared ahead of time on the weekend, and let each family member make their own personalized dinner from the ingredients.  Remember that frozen fruits and vegetables are healthy too, easy to keep on hand in the freezer, and provide produce options captured at peak ripeness.  Ingredients like thses allow you to prepare side dishes and smoothies in minutes.  If you also stock frozen fish, canned beans (that can be rinsed and heated), frozen pre-cooked chicken breasts, then a healthy, tasty meal can be had in under 15 minutes and with very little effort.


    Bottom line: The key to any healthy (stress free) household is pre-thought and planning, shopping for the week, prepping on a designated day, pre-cooking entrees on a designated day, having all members pitch in, and stocking quick-to-prepare ingredients so that you can enjoy a family meal with little effort most days of the week.  No surprise to me, I wrote a whole book about this!!

Published On: July 12, 2012