Home-Cooked Meals Put on the Backburner
Moms and Dads Who Work Long Hours Are More Likely to Replace Family Meals With Fast Food, Prepared Entrees
Sept. 9, 2009 -- Job
stress and irregular working hours are recipes for more fast food, less dinner table time, and
more skipped meals, a new study suggests.
Parents who work long and odd hours are more apt to buy fast food and
prepared entrees, says the study by Cornell University researchers, published
in the September/October issue of the Journal of Nutrition Education and
And another coping mechanism is to skip some meals entirely, say the
researchers, who conducted a three-part telephone survey of 25 working moms and
25 working dads in upstate New York.
They found that:
- About a quarter of moms and dads said they had no access to healthful,
reasonably priced, good-tasting food at or near their workplaces.
- Fathers who worked long hours or had non-standard work schedules were more
likely to opt for take-out meals, more apt to miss family meals, and more
apt to eat on the job.
- Mothers with long hours or non-standard work hours reported having more
restaurant meals or already-prepared entrees, and also skipped breakfast.
- Only 56% of fathers and 40% of mothers had more than five home-cooked
family meals a week.
- Half to three-fourths of parents had at least one fast food meal per week,
and at least one take-out meal a week.
- Watching TV was common during family meals, especially for moms.
- The most common speed-up strategy was grabbing quick food at work instead
of a meal.
- Fathers who lacked access to reasonably priced, good-tasting food at work
were more likely to miss lunch, eat while working or in the car, and were less
likely to pack a lunch.
“The importance of work structure for employed parents’ food choice
strategies is seen in the associations between work hours and schedule and food
choice coping strategies, such as meals away from home and missed family
meals,” Carol M. Devine, PhD, RD, and other Cornell researchers write. “Long
work hours and irregular schedules mean more time away from family, less time
for household food work, difficulty in maintaining a regular meal pattern and
less opportunity to participate in family meals.”
Such a situation, they say, “may result in feelings of time scarcity, fatigue and strain that leaves parents with less
personal energy for food and meals.”
The researchers say that “structural work conditions among parents -- such
as job hours, schedule, satisfaction, and food access -- are associated with
food choice coping strategies with importance for dietary quality,” adding that
their findings have “implications for worksite interventions.”