"The more often parents eat out, the lower their intake of fruits and vegetables," says Amanda Harrod, a researcher at Saint Louis University School of Public Health who is presenting her findings at the American Public Health Association conference this week.
Harrod studied young families who live in Missouri's bootheel and found that about 73 percent of the parents don't consume five or more fruits and vegetables each day, the amount recommended to guard against diseases such as heart disease and cancer.
Parents who frequently eat out are also less likely to have fruits and vegetables available at home. The reason families gave for not eating fruits and vegetables? They didn't like the taste.
Public health officials need to take into consideration what families are eating when they dine out - whether it's in fast-food, sit-down or convenience restaurants - if they're going to make inroads in improving the diet of families.
The research was funded by the National Cancer Institute and completed in partnership with Parents as Teachers National Center Inc.