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20 Feb 2017 08:32 PM EST

Even though most American parents believe good nutrition is important for their children, only one-third think they're doing a good job teaching their kids healthy eating habits, a new survey shows.
"Most parents understand that they should provide healthy food for their children, but the reality of work schedules, children's activities and different food preferences can make meal preparation a hectic and frustrating experience," said Sarah Clark. She co-directs the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health.
The poll included more than 1,700 parents with children aged 4 to 18. The researchers found that half of the respondents believe their children eat a mostly healthful diet, but only one in six rate their children's diets as very nutritious.
A quarter of the parents said their child's diet is somewhat healthy or not healthy. Twenty percent don't believe it's important to limit fast food or other junk food, and 16 percent believe it is only somewhat important or not important to limit sugary drinks, the poll revealed.
Convenience, price and fussiness over foods are obstacles in getting kids to eat better, according to many parents who took part in the poll.
"The tension between buying foods children like and buying foods that are healthy can be an ongoing struggle. Many of us know the feeling of spending time and money on a healthy meal only to have our children grimace at the sight of it and not take a single bite," Clark said in a hospital news release.
"It can be easy to slip into more convenient habits that seem less stressful and less expensive. But if occasional fast food or junk food becomes the norm, it will be even more difficult to promote healthy habits for kids as they grow up," she said.
"Many convenience foods are high in sugar, fat and calories and overconsumption of fast food can cause childhood obesity and other health problems," Clark warned.
Even if the parents want to buy healthy foods, nearly half of them said the foods are difficult to identify, and one in four respondents said those choices aren't available where they shop.
Clark said most parents want their children to eat as healthy as possible. But parents may need help to make that happen.
"Some parents need help with shopping, meal preparation, or other household chores so that mealtimes are not so hectic. Others would benefit from easy-to-understand information on how to identify packaged foods that are healthy, ideas on how to make kid-friendly recipes a little healthier, and practical suggestions on convincing picky eaters to try a more balanced diet," Clark said.

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