Stressing Out Trumps Family Nutrition

Written by yvonnethornton on July 5th, 2012

Let’s face it.  Whether you’ve been at work all day dealing with stress, or are like many who are stressed because of their daily unsuccessful job hunts, the last thing you want to do is come home and cook a big, balanced meal for your family.  Researchers have found that this is becoming more of a problem as more Americans are either out of work or feeling increased pressure from their jobs.  This means that the stress of parents is now affecting the nutrition and health of their children.

According to a study published in the Journal of Science and Medicine, parents with high stress levels were more likely to serve fast food, unbalanced meals, and less fruits and vegetables each day.  Although their study included people who were unemployed and had more time to cook for their families, stress still played a bigger role.  Whether parents were stressed out because of work or lack of it, their teens received less nutritional meals.  The study compared the meals of 3700 parents with teens in the Midwest, about half of which, were unemployed.  Professor of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University in Boston, Dr. Alice Lichtenstein, says that “work stress can affect many areas of daily life, including meal times and quality.”  In most families, it was the mother who did most of the meal prep, despite employment.   Lichtenstein suggests helping each other to lighten the load by sharing kitchen and cooking duties with any able family member.  Perhaps this would help stressed out parents increase the amount of balanced family meals they provide each week from the average of 4 to 7.

When you are raising a family, there is certainly a lot of stress to deal with, and nobody should have to bare that burden alone.  Whether that means being open and honest about the family’s financial situation and day-to-day stresses or simply sharing chores around the home, the purpose of family is to share life, not to be the burden of it.  So if you know your partner could use some support, be sure to give it freely, and if you are the one taking on the majority of the work and stress load, don’t be afraid to ask for help.  Both your and your family’s nutrition and overall health could depend on it.


– Yvonne S. Thornton, M. D., M. P. H.




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