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Working mothers more likely to feed children ready meals

Children whose mothers work full-time have an increased risk of becoming obese, according to a new American study, as they are more likely to eat takeaways and ready meals.

Researchers, led by Cornell University, examined data on almost 25,000 families from a yearly survey of how Americans spend their time. They found that mothers who worked full-time spent roughly three-and-a half fewer hours per day on chores related to their children’s diet and exercise, such as cooking, food shopping and play with children, compared to stay-at-home and unemployed mothers.

The more hours worked by mothers, the less likely families were to eat meals together or at regular times, or have family rules about the amount of television watched.

Lead author Professor John Crawley from Cornell University in New York said that male partners and husbands of working mothers do little to make up the deficit, with employed fathers devoting just 13 minutes daily to chores related to their children’s diet and exercise, and non-working fathers 41 minutes.

He goes on to say that to make up for this gap, working mothers are more likely to buy pre-prepared foods, takeaway or ready meals for children to eat, than provide home-cooked meals.

Rather than advocate that women leave the workforce, the authors argue that there are other ways to enhance childhood nutrition and physical activity, including educating parents about the nutritional contents of pre-packaged foods.

Professor Crawley also suggests schools shoulder a greater burden for supporting healthy lifestyles.
“Our findings underscore the importance of schools offering high-quality foods and physical education classes,” he said.

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