WASHINGTON (Dispatches) -- Families with multiple children tend to make more healthy eating decisions than families with a single child.
A new study in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, published by Elsevier, found that only-children, who researchers refer to as "singletons," had less healthy family eating practices, beverage choices, and total Healthy Eating Index 2010 score, coming in lower on three out of the 12 areas measured. They also had significantly lower total scores across weekdays, weekends, and on average, indicating there are both individual and collective differences in eating patterns between the groups.
Data was self-reported in daily food logs kept by mothers over the course of three days -- two weekdays and one weekend day. Teachers kept logs by proxy for any food children ate while at school. Mothers also completed the Family Nutrition and Physical Activity questionnaire to evaluate typical family eating behaviors like food and beverage choice.
Researchers found mothers of singleton children were more likely to be obese themselves. Moreover, maternal BMI had a much stronger connection to child BMI percentile and waist circumference percentile than singleton status. Maternal BMI did not significantly contribute to overall eating patterns but did contribute to empty calories.
The study only looked at mothers and children and so could not speak to the impact of fathers' eating patterns, but the results were independent of marital status.