If you are the only child of your parents, you might have been more pampered than your friends who have siblings. Research shows that families with many kids opt for healthier eating habits than families that have just one child.
Only children, also called 'singletons' do not belong to families with healthy eating practices, shows a new study published by Elsevier in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior. Research showed that parents of single children showed less healthy eating practices, beverage choices, and total Healthy Eating Index scores, ranking very low in the three out of the 12 areas measured.
They also had significantly lower total scores across weekdays, weekends, and on average, indicating there are both individual and collective differences in eating patterns between the groups.
"Nutrition professionals must consider the influence of family and siblings to provide appropriate and tailored nutrition education for families of young children," said lead author Chelsea L. Kracht, PhD. "Efforts to help all children and families establish healthy eating habits and practices must be encouraged."
For Kracht's research, mothers maintained everyday food logs for three days, comprising two weekdays and one weekend. Teachers kept food logs for the meals of children at school. Mothers also filled in the Family Nutrition and Physical Activity questionnaire that gave hints about what kind of foods families opted for.
Scientists found that single children were obese and so were their mothers. The mother's body mass index, or BMI, showed a stronger link with a child's BMI percentile and waist circumference percentile than singletons'. Even if a mother's BMI did not indicate the food composition of families, they did have a hand to play in leading to some empty calories. The study commented on the eating habits of mothers and children, but not on fathers.
Moreover, if children spend a lot of time in outdoor home care and daycare, it was not significantly linked to their dietary patterns. How many meals were consumed in front of the TV indicated the family's eating practices, and sugary beverages consumed also affected the children's scores. They varied among different groups of the study participants.
"Healthier eating behaviours and patterns may result from household-level changes rather than peer exposure, as peer exposure is also present in away-from-home care," Dr Kracht said. The study is being continued by Dr Kracht and her team. They are deeply into collecting and collating content and material related to the household and the family's dynamics.