American families spend approximately half of their food budget in restaurants, and this may be on the rise with parents working longer hours.
A study presented in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior explores how parenting styles and work schedules affect children’s diets.
Dad’s habits matter
A particularly interesting finding is that how a father uses fast-food and full-service restaurants significantly affects how a child uses these restaurants, suggesting that fathers should be more careful role models when it comes to food choices.
Other factors that were shown to affect how often children ate meals prepared outside of the home were both parents having 9-to-5 work schedules and how much time children spent in a car with their parents. Both of these increased the time children spent eating in restaurants.
Striking a balance
Food prepared outside of the home generally has more calories and is less nutritious than food prepared in the home, but with busy work and school schedules, it is sometimes just to difficult for families to eat every meal at home.
However, even though it may be more difficult, eating at home together as a family has benefits beyond caloric ones. Children who eat regularly eat dinners at home with their family:
- consume more important nutrients
- do better in school
- are happier with their present life and outlook on the future
- are less likely to abuse drugs or alcohol
- learn proper eating habits early on and are less likely to be obese.
This is not to say that eating at restaurants cannot be a part of a healthy diet and healthy family life. Sure, eating at a restaurant may be less healthy than eating at home, but going out to eat is fun…if it’s not everyday. Having both parents as good role models can help kids learn to strike a healthy eating balance.
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