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While US consumers are willing to take greater responsibility for the health and nutrition of their families, a new study released by the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and Rodale's Prevention magazine says that convenience remains a key driver in food purchase decisions.

The white paper, Healthy Lifestyles: From Parents to Kids, is just one section of the 2003 Shopping for Health report that will be jointly released by FMI and Prevention in October.

Among the other revelations of the report:

  • Most consumers would like more information about eating a balanced diet.

  • Consumers often find that time constraints make it difficult to make food decisions that are nutrition-based.

  • The study reports that 74 percent of households with children and 63 percent of households with no children admit that their diets could be somewhat or a lot healthier. Survey participants offered five primary reasons they are challenged to maintain a healthy diet: they are too busy to eat healthily, their friends/families don't share the nutrition concerns, healthy fast foods are hard to find, healthy foods cost too much, and they are confused about the health claims made by various products.

  • Survey participants view home-cooked meals prepared from scratch, particularly dinner, as the most nutritious meal option; 96 percent believe these meals are very or somewhat healthy. However, fewer than half of these shoppers (46 percent) report that their family eats dinner together every day and 32 percent eat together fewer than five days a week. Single parents with children are even less likely to eat together.

  • Parents also view a child's lunch as very important, since it is often eaten at school. Although cafeteria lunches provide more convenience for busy parents who do not have time to prepare a bagged lunch, 58 percent of the parents surveyed view the latter as a more nutritious option. However, parents are slow to take action. Almost half (49 percent) of the children in married households and nearly two-thirds (68 percent) of those in single-parent households take a bagged lunch to school less than once a week.

  • Approximately two-thirds of parents including children in their food shopping visits almost always or sometimes, and nine out of 10 parents making a purchasing decision specifically because a child likes the item, with 46 percent almost always doing this and 45 percent sometimes, according to the report.

  • Nearly two-thirds of parents (65 percent) say they almost always consider whether a product is nutritious for their children and 30 percent consider their child's nutritional needs at least sometimes. The report findings suggest that parents can use the food shopping opportunity to teach children about good nutritional choices.

Copes of the white paper can be obtained from FMI at
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