Nov. 11, 2004 -- If you're a parent who eats out often, you may be skimping on fruits and vegetables, according to a new study.
"The more often parents eat out, the lower their intake of fruits and vegetables, excluding French fries," say the researchers, who included Amanda Harrod of the Saint Louis University's School of Public Health.
Harrod and colleagues studied the eating habits of more than 1,200 parents of preschool children in rural, southeastern Missouri. Most of the parents were young white women, with an average age of 29 and an annual household income under $35,000 for 59% of the group. More than half (57%) were overweight, with a body mass index (BMI) of at least 25.
BMI is an indicator of total body fat. Underweight BMI is less than 18.5. Normal BMI ranges from 18.5-24.9. Overweight BMI goes from 25-29.9, and obese BMI starts at 30.
Only 35% of participants ate five or more fruits and vegetables per day, not counting French fries. It's widely recommended that people eat at least five fruits and vegetables every day for maximum health benefits.
The biggest turn-off to fruits and vegetables was taste, according to 44% of the participants. In addition, 22% said they didn't stock their kitchens with fruits and vegetables.
More than half of the group (52%) said they found it convenient to eat out, and 38% reported dining out at least 17 times per month.
The parents who didn't keep fruits and vegetables at home ate out more often, but they probably weren't ordering fruits and veggies, since produce intake fell as dining out increased.
"Efforts should be made to improve the quality of the home food environment and address barriers to fruit and vegetable intake," say Harrod and colleagues, who reported their findings at the American Public Health Association's annual conference in Washington.