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Sep 20, 2014 06:33 AM EDT

Children of College-Educated Parents More Likely To Eat More Vegetables, Study

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Children belonging to college-educated parents are likely to eat more vegetables, according to a University of British Columbia study.

The researchers said that children whose parents completed some post-secondary education were 85 percent more likely to eat vegetables during school week than those with high school graduation or less. At the same time, these children were 67 percent less likely to consume sugary drinks like soda pop.

The findings suggest that parents' educational qualifications can be used as an indicator of a child's diet and socioeconomic status.

"We can only speculate on the reasons for the disparities," said co-author Jennifer Black, a food, nutrition and health professor in the Faculty of Land and Food Systems, in a statement. "Higher priced products, like vegetables, may not be the food that gets packed first for vulnerable families that need to make tough choices about school lunches."

The study also found that the majority of children, regardless of socioeconomic status, do not consume enough low-fat milk or whole grains on school days. They instead binge on packaged snack foods like potato chips, fast-food items like French fries and foods rich in sodium and saturated fat.

"While there are still barriers that exist for low-income children, families from across the socioeconomic spectrum are struggling to get their kids to eat healthy food at school," said Black. "Our findings challenge this common notion that only low-income families feed their kids junk food because it appears wealthy families are not always making healthier choices either."

For the study, the researchers surveyed nearly 1,000 students in Grades 5 to 8 about their daily food consumption at school and while travelling to and from school. They found that less than 50 percent of the kids reported eating fruit, vegetables, whole grains or low-fat milk; 17 percent reported consuming fast food; 20 per cent reported eating packaged snack foods; 31 per cent reported drinking sugary drinks and 15 percent of the students reported going hungry.

"Overall, things aren't looking so good. More work is needed to address the dietary needs of children when they go off to school," said co-author Naseam Ahmadi, a M.Sc. graduate in human nutrition.

The study, titled "Associations between socio-economic status and school-day dietary intake in a sample of grade 5-8 students in Vancouver, Canada", is published in Public Health Nutrition.

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