Despite Kids’ Weight, Little Difference in Family Shopping, Meal Prep Habits

SymphonyIRI Group, Inc. (formerly IRI), and Food Marketing Institute (FMI) have issued research showing that, contrary to conventional wisdom, the attitudes and behaviors of families with one or more overweight or obese children differ little from those whose children are all a healthy weight.

“Many myths and misperceptions continue to exist about childhood obesity,” noted Thom Blischok, global president, innovation and strategy at Chicago-based SymphonyIRI. “This new research is the first of a series designed to probe into the attitudes, behaviors and rituals within the family that can lead to children becoming overweight or obese. We have found that just a few differences in behaviors can make the difference between the path to overweight and obesity, and that of maintaining healthy-weight children.”

“Gaining a greater understanding of home behaviors and dynamics is critical to addressing childhood obesity in a holistic manner,” added Cathy Polley, VP, health and wellness at Arlington, Va.-based FMI.“FMI is working to address the issues that lead to childhood obesity, and our partnership with SymphonyIRI on this important new research is the latest step in these efforts.”

Among the five factors identified in the research as possibly making the difference between one or more children becoming overweight or obese and all children maintaining a healthy weight were the following:

—Children in healthy-weight families tend to be slightly more involved in food-buying decisions (76 percent of healthy weight families, vs. 72 percent in families with one or more overweight/obese children, which included going with parents on shopping trips (68 percent vs. 64 percent). Additionally, parents in healthy-weight families are more likely to prepare and cook most meals (89 percent vs. 82 percent).

—Households with healthy-weight children have fewer eating rules than those with one or more overweight/obese children (46 percent for healthy-weight families, vs. 51 percent for families with one or more overweight/obese children). For instance, just 28 percent of families with healthy-weight children adhere to the old “finish what’s on your plate” policy, vs. 38 percent for families with at least one overweight or obese child.

Completed in April 2010, the study includes online surveys from 1,000 shoppers collected from an independent panel that represents a cross-section of U.S. consumers. To download the “Childhood Obesity:Crisis in America” Executive Perspective, visit

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