In Australia, there are too few fruits and vegetables eaten with only half of adults meeting the recommended two serves of fruit per day and just seven percent getting five (for women) to six (for men) serves of vegetables each day.

Early childhood is a critical period for establishing healthy dietary habits. Parents have a key role in shaping early childhood food preferences by both modelling behaviour via their own food choices and making certain types of food available in the home. Although adult food preferences are considered relatively stable, major life events can be a cue for behaviour change in desiring to eat healthier. One such major life change is becoming a parent.

When people become parents, they could be more attuned to healthy eating habits and thus be likely to spend more money on fruits and vegetables. So does this happen in reality? This was the research question that United States researchers looked at.

The study used food purchasing data from the Nielsen Consumer Panel, which involves over 21,000 households who volunteer to have their retail purchases tracked using in-home scanners to record all purchases. Food categories include dry groceries, dairy, frozen food, and fresh produce.

From 2007 to 2015, there were 508 households in the panel who became parents for the first time. The new arrival saw an increase in how much was spent on fresh produce by almost 16 percent of the household budget. The fresh produce purchasing boost though was only seen in households that were middle-income earners and above.

What spurred the increase in spending wasn’t clear, though a greater focus on healthy eating with a new arrival in the house is likely – at least in households that could afford a bigger spend on fresh produce.

Implications

New parenthood is a critical time of change in a person’s life and can represent an opportunity to eat better, though income disparities may make this difficult to achieve for some.

Last Reviewed: 02/05/2020

© Norman Swan Medical Communications.



References

For reference: Cliff BQ et al. Examining household changes in produce purchases among new parents. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behaviour 2019;51:798-805.

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