Published online: Dec 24, 2010
Viewed 1015 time(s)
Web Exclusive

When it comes to calories, parents lack a basic understanding of their impact on weight and may even be skeptical that calories are just the latest food and nutrition fad. New research shows that only 14 percent of parents say they are consistently paying attention to the calories their families consume; even fewer (9 percent) say it would be the easiest thing for their family to do on a regular basis.

The research was conducted by the Dietary Guidelines Alliance, of which the International Food Information Council is a founding member, along with the federal government and other food and health organizations.

These findings come at a time when several leading health organizations and initiatives have identified balancing calories consumed and burned is a key factor to combating the global obesity epidemic.

"Parents will soon hear lots more about managing calories from the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans to First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! campaign to various food labeling initiatives." says Marianne Smith Edge, MS, RD, LD, FADA, Senior Vice President, Nutrition and Food Safety at the International Food Information Council Foundation. "This research helps us identify where gaps exist in communicating effective messages on dietary guidance to consumers."

Across five core behaviors that parents could be implementing to impact the healthfulness of their family's diet, the study shows that parents are least likely to believe that paying attention to calories can make a difference. There is nearly universal agreement that serving nutrient-rich foods could impact the healthfulness of their family's diet.

Specifically, when asked to rate five key behaviors in terms of how important they are to the healthfulness of their family's diet, parents ranked the following as most important:

  • Serving their families foods and beverages that are nutrient rich (such as whole grains, lean meats, low-fat dairy and fruits and vegetables) more often (82%)
  • Making an effort to balance amount of foods and beverages consumed with amount of physical activity (74%)
  • Paying attention to the amount of foods and beverages served and eaten (69%)
  • Managing higher-calorie food and beverage choices in a way that does not impact weight (67%)
  • Paying attention to calories consumed from foods and beverages (52%)