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Research Review

Parents Focus on Kids, Neglect Own Diet and Exercise Needs

Parents with children younger than age 18 are very focused on the nutrition and health needs of their offspring but are less likely to think about the healthfulness of the foods they choose for themselves or believe in the health benefits of regular exercise, according to results from the International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation’s 2012 Food & Health Survey.

“Parents are being responsible and conscientious when it comes to the needs of their children, but less so in terms of their own health,” said Marianne Smith Edge, MS, RD, LD, FADA, senior vice president of nutrition and food safety at the IFIC Foundation. “In some ways, parents have significantly different beliefs and priorities than non-parents and these differences are important in terms of designing effective messaging to better equip them to achieve a more healthful lifestyle.”

The survey revealed that only 16% of parents think they have a very or extremely healthful diet, while nearly 70% say they worry more about the healthfulness of the foods and beverages they buy for their children than those they buy for themselves.

Of the 1,057 participants in the survey, 29% were adults aged 18 to 49 with children younger than 18. On most questions about health and diet, parents hold very similar views as non-parents in that same age range and to the overall population.

There are significant differences in several noteworthy areas, including the following:

• Parents (36%) are more likely to be obese than non-parents (28%); more parents (60%) are trying to lose weight than non-parents (55%).

• Parents are less likely than non-parents to report giving a lot of thought to the amount of physical activity they are getting (58% vs. 66%) and to believe that the amount of physical activity has a positive health benefit (58% vs. 68%).

• Although both groups hold similar views about the importance of taste, price, convenience, and sustainability in food buying decisions, parents (54%) are less likely than non-parents (63%) to say that healthfulness has a strong impact on their decisions about what to buy.

• Perhaps surprisingly, parents are less likely than non-parents to look at several aspects of packaging when deciding what foods to buy, including expiration dates (67% vs. 77%), the Nutrition Facts panel (59% vs. 68%), ingredients lists (41% vs. 51%) and cooking instructions/preparation time (38% vs. 47%).

— Source: International Food Information Council Foundation