DES MOINES, Iowa - Adults living with children tend to eat more fat than grown-ups in kid-free homes, consumi ng as much additional saturated fat each week as found in an individual-size pizza, a new study suggests.
It might not exactly be the kids' fault, but household cupboards are more likely to be stocked with high-fat convenience foods like cookies, cheese, peanuts and processed meats when children are around, the researchers said.
"These dietary choices may be due to time pressures, advertising aimed at children that also includes adults, or adults' perception that children will eat only hot dogs or macaroni and cheese," said study author
Dr. Helena Laroche, who works in internal medicine and pediatrics at the University of Iowa College of Medicine.
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"Once these foods are in the house, even if bought for the children, adults appear more likely to eat them," she said.
Laroche cautioned that the report "doesn't prove that the presence of children causes adults to eat more fat," but shows that people living with children might have different eating habits for many reasons.
Laroche and University of Michigan researchers examined data from the federal government's National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The researchers scoured detailed food questionnaires given to 6,600 adults living with and without children under age 17. The survey reviewed what the adults ate over a 24-hour period.
Adults living with children ate almost 5 more grams of fat each day, for a total of more than 91 grams, compared to 86.5 grams for adults not living with children, according to the study. That included nearly 2 grams more of saturated fat daily, the kind linked to heart disease, or about 12 grams of saturated fat per week - an amount equal to a 6-inch, personal size pepperoni pizza.
An adult eating a 2,000-calorie diet should consume less than 65 grams of total fat a day, including less than 20 grams of saturated fat, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Tracey Adamowski, a 39-year-old mother of two from West Des Moines, knows about the struggle to eat healthier foods. She recently lost 30 pounds on Weight Watchers, but said trips to the grocery store usually revolved around her kids' tastes.
"You buy cookies and you buy snack foods and you buy hot dogs and you buy canned raviolis and all this, and now that's there when you open the cabinet," said Adamowski, who sent her son off to college last year and has a 13-year-old daughter at home.