Food Choice Influencer of Mothers of Young Children


Eating healthy meals with family is a priority, but moms want help in creating them quickly

PITTSBURGH - August 26, 2008 - Faced with many time constraints that call for quick food preparation, today's moms aren't confident in their ability to consistently prepare meals that are nutritious, according to new research from Rutgers University. While moms each have their own unique challenges, the study suggests that many moms can benefit from recognizing that good nutrition and preparing food quickly are not mutually exclusive.

Carol Byrd-Bredbenner, Ph.D., RD, FADA, professor of nutritional sciences at Rutgers University, is the lead researcher of the study "Food Choice Influencer of Mothers of Young Children:  Implications for Nutrition Educators?", published in the July-September issue of Topics in Clinical Nutrition (Volume 23, Number 3). The study examined the key factors that influence the foods that moms select and serve, and noted that moms have a profound influence as the family's meal gatekeeper. As a result, moms' food choices have an overall impact on the health of their families.

Funded by the Canned Food Alliance, the study confirms:
  • Though mothers realize the link between diet and health, they find it tough to eat and prepare meals healthfully when they're busy or stressed, when convenience becomes paramount.
  • Moms don't equate nutrition and value with foods that are convenient.
  • Eating nutritious meals together as a family is a top priority of moms with children 12 and younger.
  • Mothers express a strong desire to learn how to prepare nutritious meals.

These findings become increasingly relevant as a recent analysis by the USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion reports that among adults, about three-fourths of all evening meals were eaten at home1. Furthermore, a 2007 study from Rutgers University reveals one-third of Americans decide what to eat for dinner at the last minute. In those cases, Americans make dinner selections because they require little or no planning and fail to realize that by planning ahead, eating healthier becomes easier to fit into their busy lifestyles.

"Since families are eating the majority of meals at home and mothers value gathering their spouse and kids around the dinner table, it becomes increasingly crucial to make sure what's on the menu is nutritious, even when time is limited," said Byrd-Bredbenner.    

Deciding what's for Dinner
The evening meal can be the product of careful consideration. Moms reported that they weigh a variety of factors, including:
  • Taste
  • Good value
  • Convenience
  • Time they have available
  • Health and weight-control concerns 
Taste and value emerge as the most important factors. However, when moms are feeling stressed and rushed, the importance of convenience is amplified. Barriers to a quick, healthy dinner are:
  • Lack of time for meal planning
  • Lack of time for meal preparation

Moms in the study expressed a desire to learn how to prepare nutritious meals, though they may be overlooking easy ways to do this, as they also report not finding convenience foods appealing, a good value, healthy, or quick and easy to prepare.
"With so many families making a point to regularly gather around the dinner table, these insights represent a real opportunity to educate food decision makers on how to quickly and easily put a nutritious meal on the table," commented Byrd-Bredbenner. "Contrary to what we've found to be common beliefs, convenience and nutrition are not mutually exclusive. In fact, time-saving foods make it possible for even the busiest families to eat healthy meals every day."

A Perfect Pairing
Convenience and nutrition can coexist in family meal preparation, thanks to canned food.  Especially when schedules are packed, canned foods help moms cook a homemade dinner her family will enjoy, while delivering the nutrients her growing children need. 

Though moms are often the only cooks in the kitchen, those in the study said that they would welcome help on making food choices that are both nutritious and convenient.

"Understanding that busy moms are open to receiving help presents a valuable opportunity for the canned food industry to provide solutions," said Rich Tavoletti, executive director, the Canned Food Alliance. "Making a nutritious meal doesn't always mean taking time to chop and dice every ingredient from scratch. Since canned food is already cooked and shelf-stable, on-the-go moms with busy families can easily stock their pantry to save time planning, shopping for and preparing meals, making dinner time enjoyable." 

The benefits of canned food successfully pair convenience with nutrition. Several university studies confirmed that canned fruits and vegetables are just as nutritious as fresh and frozen2, making them a convenient way for Americans to start eating more healthfully. Canned foods are also easy and accessible for all people in all locations, regardless of time of year. Furthermore, canned fruits and vegetables generally cost less than fresh or frozen, so they play a crucial role in contributing to family nutrition.

For hundreds of easy and nutritious meals and tips for cooking with canned foods, visit For complete study results contact Katie Calligaro, Ketchum, at 412-456-3596 or via e-mail at

About the Canned Food Alliance
The Canned Food Alliance is a partnership of the American Iron and Steel Institute's Steel Packaging Council, the Can Manufacturers Institute, select food processors and affiliate members. The primary mission of the CFA is to serve as a resource for information on the nutrition, convenience, contemporary appeal and versatility of canned food. For hundreds of mealtime solutions, visit

About Topics in Clinical Nutrition
Topics in Clinical Nutrition is published by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins (, a leading international publisher for healthcare professionals and students with nearly 300 periodicals and 1,500 books in more than 100 disciplines publishing under the LWW brand, as well as content-based sites and online corporate and customer services. LWW is part of Wolters Kluwer Health, a leading provider of information and business intelligence for students, professionals and institutions in medicine, nursing, allied health, pharmacy and the pharmaceutical industry. 

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1 A recent analysis by the USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP) reports that about three-fourths (73.6%) of all evening meals were eaten at home., February 29, 2008.

2 University of California, Davis "Nutritional Comparison of Fresh, Frozen and Canned Fruits and Vegetables." University of Massachusetts, "Nutrition Study Phase I, Phase II and Phase III."  University of Illinois Study "Nutrient Conservation in Canned, Frozen and Fresh Foods."