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Teen Dietary Habits Related to Those of Parents

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Publication Date: February 2009

Publisher(s): UCLA Center for Health Policy Research

Author(s): Allison L. Diamant; Susan H. Babey; Malia Jones; E. Richard Brown

Topic: Health (Health services for adolescents)
Health (Food and nutrition)

Keywords: adolescents; diet; parenting

Coverage: California


Every day, over two million California adolescents (62%) drink soda and 1.4 million (43%) eat fast food, but only 38% eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables.

This policy brief examines adolescent consumption of fruits and vegetables, soda (not including diet soda) and fast food and the relationship to parental dietary behaviors using data from the 2005 California Health Interview Survey (CHIS 2005). It finds that adolescents are more likely to eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables if their parents do so. Additionally, teens whose parents drink more soda in turn drink more soda themselves.

The findings suggest that improving parents' diets may help to improve the eating behavior of adolescents. Parents can influence their children's dietary habits positively through serving as role models and through the food environment at home. Promoting retail food environments that encourage healthy choices and supporting parents in modeling healthy behaviors can help both parents and adolescents to improve dietary behavior, and reduce risk for obesity and chronic disease. Policymakers and health educators can help alter these patterns by developing supportive environments at home, at school and in the community.


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