Children of College-Educated Parents Eat More Veggies During School Week

First Posted: Sep 19, 2014 03:57 AM EDT

Parents' education level and their socio-economic status determine the eating habits and healthy nutritional choices of the children, but researchers of a study say this is still not enough.

Several reports earlier have revealed that parents affect the eating habits of their children in more ways than they think. In the latest study, researchers at the University of British found that children, whose parents were college educated, ate more vegetables and drank less sugar. At the same time they claim that kids are falling short when it comes to consuming healthier food at school.

"Our study provides new insight on what kids are eating, or not eating, in Vancouver public schools," said co-author Naseam Ahmadi, a M.Sc. graduate in human nutrition. "Overall, things aren't looking so good. More work is needed to address the dietary needs of children when they go off to school."

In this study, the researchers conducted a survey that included 1000 students of Grades 5-8. They were asked to report their daily consumption of food at school, or while travelling to-and-from school. The researchers noticed that less than 50 percent of the kids reported consuming fruit, vegetables, whole grains or low fat milk. Fast food was consumed by 17 percent, 10 percent ate packaged snack foods and 31 percent consumed drinking sugary drinks daily. Nearly 15 percent of the students stayed hungry while going to school.

Irrespective of the socioeconomic status, most of the children do not take low fat milk or whole grains during school days. They rather opt for packaged snacks that are high in sodium and saturated fat.

It was noticed that children whose parents had completed post-secondary education were nearly 85 percent more likely to consume vegetables during the school week when compared to those whose parents had completed high school or less. Children whose parents completed graduation from college or university were nearly 67 percent more likely to consume sugary drinks like soda pop.

"We can only speculate on the reasons for the disparities," said co-author Jennifer Black, a food, nutrition and health professor in the Faculty of Land and Food Systems. "Higher priced products, like vegetables, may not be the food that gets packed first for vulnerable families that need to make tough choices about school lunches."

The study reveals that parents' educational achievements could offer a peek into the child's diet.  The study was documented in the Public Health Nutrition.

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