Parents unsure how to tackle obesity

Posted by Isobel Drake on 15th May 2009

Food, fitness or family… which one is most to blame for childhood obesity?

New research from Mintel suggests today’s parents aren’t sure, and they’re feeling overwhelmed and worried as they try to prevent obesity in their own children.

A survey of American parents discovered confusion over whether diet or exercise is most important for keeping kids at a healthy weight. Nearly three quarters of parents (72%) believe kids have too much access to junk food, while 69% feel that a lack of exercise is more to blame for obesity. In addition, two in five parents (40%) are concerned that their children might develop obesity.

“Parents aren’t sure where to focus first to ensure their children’s healthy diet, exercise or both simultaneously,” Marcia Mogelonsky, senior analyst at Mintel, said.

According to Mintel, parents want help when it comes to promoting healthy eating with their children. While 95% feel that this is very or somewhat important, only 82% believe they are somewhat or very successful at doing so. Similarly, while 93% consider it very or somewhat important to limit their children’s access to junk food, only 77% feel they have been very or somewhat successful at accomplishing this.

Additionally, many parents blame kids’ sedentary lifestyles for obesity. According to parents, less than half of kids are physically active five or more hours per week – less than an hour a day. These sedentary habits are not enough to offset the caloric intake of kids with poor eating habits.

“When it comes to placing the blame, most parents look to themselves,” Ms Mogelonsky reported. “Seventy-eight percent of parents believe the fault lies with them, yet most seek more information on nutrition so they can improve their children’s health.”

More than half of parents (57%) are worried that their children don’t get enough information about healthy living at school, and 47% believe children should have ongoing diet and nutrition classes.