Is your child ruining your health?

Parents of young children eat more fatty foods and lead unhealthier lives than their childless friends

You might think running around after children would leave you in good shape, but a new study suggests mothers and fathers of toddlers are unhealthier than their childless peers.

Women of young children are heavier and consume more calories, fatty foods and fizzy drinks than those who don’t have kids, according to research from the University of Minnesota.

‘This isn’t a study about blame, this is about identifying a very high-risk time period for parents,’ says co-author Dr Jerica Berge. Doctors should be aware of the risks and be able to offer solutions such as diet advice and parent-child activities, say the researchers.

It is understandable that with a houseful of young children, parents opt for quick and easy meal options, but the study shows mothers with young children eat about 368 more calories than women without. Fathers ate about the same as childless men but got about two hours less physical activity.

The researchers took race, income and other factors into account but the study is limited due to its lack of data on women who had recently given birth and whose weight would still reflect pregnancy pounds. Whether parents are single or married is also likely to affect diet and activity level.

Sarah Krieger, from the American Dietetic Association also says mothers may have encountered postpartum depression, which could affect their eating and exercise habits.

Does having young children make you unhealthier? Perhaps you disagree? Let us know your thoughts by posting a comment below.

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