Stress, Junk Food and Parents

No matter what kind of job you have or lifestyle you lead, at some point you are bound to encounter stressful situations. Likewise, parents are all too familiar with the effects of stress. According to new research, stressed-out parents may turn to junk food to keep their children fed.

Family Problems

This report was led by a trio of researchers; University of Wisconsin–Madison nursing professor Myoungock Jang, and Duke University nursing professors Debra Brandon and Allison Vorderstrasse. A total of 256 American families participated in this study; each family had children between the ages of two and five. Upon recruiting these families, the authors collected information from these participants in the following areas:

  • Parents’ psychological well-being
  • Parent’s sleep quality
  • Family mealtime habits
  • Food choices 

Upon collecting this data, the researchers determined that families struggling with stress resorted to relatively unhealthy eating habits. “The higher their psychological distress, the less healthy food is available in the home and the more unhealthy the feeding practices are for their children,” says Jang. The study co-author further stated that, due to stress, these families cut corners when it comes to meal preparation. “More often they didn’t feel they had enough energy and time to prepare food at home. So, they were making choices like eating fast food more, and bringing home processed food that doesn’t take much work to prepare — but also isn’t healthy food.”

So what can stressed out families do? One possible solution proposed by the authors is to seek help from friends and fellow parents. “Some parents make a good strategy of preparing for the week in advance. But that’s not easy for everyone, all the time,” Jang noted in a university press release. “That is where peer support, parent-to-parent, would be great. Sharing information, sharing child care resources and emotional support, that may be a way to help stressed parents avoid unhealthy feeding practices.”

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