Attentive parents keep teens eating right

February 5, 2002 in Healthy Eating, Nutrition for Children and Teenagers

Attentive parents keep teens eating right

Teenagers who are able to communicate with their mothers and fathers about serious issues and whose parents monitor their activities closely are more likely to have healthy eating habits than teens with more distant parental relationships, according to recent study findings from the University of Georgia in Athens.

The researchers noted that involvement of parents in their children's lives appears to be related to eating a healthy breakfast and lunch as well as fruit and vegetable intake. The report was based on survey responses from over 3,000 Georgia high school students. Overall, about 37% of the female students and 43% of the males said they regularly ate a healthy breakfast, while nearly 60% of females and 70% of males said they ate a healthy lunch.

The students most likely to report that they regularly ate a healthy breakfast and lunch were those who had the highest level of communication with their parents and experienced the highest level of parental monitoring, meaning their parents were involved with their school life, generally knew their whereabouts, and set clear rules.

And almost 80% of the students who reported experiencing the highest level of parental monitoring ate fruits and vegetables at least once a day, in comparison to 51% of those who reported the lowest level of parental monitoring. Fruit and vegetable intake was also greater among the youth who reported higher levels of family communication.

Healthy eating was also associated with the students' parental living situation, and was most common among individuals who lived with both parents. Forty-three percent of students who lived with both parents said they ate a healthy breakfast, in comparison to 32% of those who lived with only one parent, 24% of those who lived with other family members and 12% of those who lived with a foster family.

The researchers concluded that in general, the use of parenting practices that are supportive and provide clear expectations for behavior might result in healthier eating by enabling children to develop self-control skills.

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