Parents' barriers and strategies to promote healthy eating among school-age children

Martha J. Nepper, Weiwen Chai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

101 Scopus citations


The home environment is considered one of the most important settings in regards to the development of healthy eating habits among children. The primary purpose of this study was to explore parents' barriers and strategies in promoting healthy eating in the home. The secondary objective was to determine whether the barriers and strategies parents had were different between healthy weight and overweight/obese school-age children. Semi-structured individual interviews with 14 parents of healthy weight and 11 parents of overweight/obese children (6-12 years) were conducted in family homes from August 2014 to March 2015. Transcripts were recorded and codes and themes were verified by the research team and one qualitative expert. Themes emerging from both parents of healthy weight and overweight/obese children were: 1) Parents are busy and strapped for time; 2) Cost is a barrier in providing healthy food, but parents are resourceful; 3) Children ask for junk food regularly, but parents have strategies to manage; 4) Picky eaters are a challenge but parents know they have to overcome this barrier; and 5) Early exposure to unhealthy eating influences children's food choices but strategies can help. However, parents of overweight/obese children felt a lack of support from their spouses/partners for healthy eating in the home, which was not expressed among parents of healthy weight children. Additionally, barriers and strategies were similar among parents of children from different age groups [6-9 years vs. 10-12 years (pre-adolescents)]. Our results suggest while parents faced some challenges in promoting healthy eating in the home, they utilized several strategies to overcome these barriers, which are valuable for direct intervention to improve home food environment and manage children's weight.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)157-164
Number of pages8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2016


  • Barriers
  • Healthy eating
  • Healthy weight
  • Overweight
  • Parents
  • Strategies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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