Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)


Nutrition, Dietetics, and Food Sciences

Committee Chair(s)

Heidi LeBlanc


Heidi LeBlanc


Lisa Boyce


Janet Anderson


Debra Christofferson


Recently, childhood overweight and obesity has reached epidemic proportions. The co-morbidities associated with adult obesity are now being seen in the pediatric population; therefore, there is a call for preventative efforts. A diet high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in conjunction with an active lifestyle discourages the presence of obesity. Currently, most childhood obesity prevention efforts have taken place in the school setting and have only had short-term success. For long-term success, obesity prevention programs need to involve parents and be implemented in a wide range of settings, including the home. This study was developed to assess the effectiveness of parent nutrition education in changing family lifestyle behaviors. It incorporated current research findings on childhood obesity prevention by involving parents in the intervention via nutrition education workshops. Parents participated by attending group classes or by viewing the lessons on a computer at home. Lessons were taught to 28 parents with children aged infant through 5 years by nutrition education assistants (NEAs) from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Fourteen of the parents had 3-5 year-old children who were receiving hands-on nutrition education and food exposures in their preschool classrooms as part of another study. The topics of the parent nutrition lessons included: overcoming barriers to family mealtime; feeding preschoolers: introduction to new foods; meal planning and quick meals; and incorporating whole foods into family mealtime. The parent nutrition education taught healthy lifestyle behaviors and encouraged the whole family to make small changes together, creating a successful environment. Completion of parent nutrition education resulted in significant changes in family lifestyle behaviors, average body mass index (BMI) of the parents, and nutrition knowledge. Children had significant changes in fruit, vegetable, protein, beans, dairy, refined grain, discretionary calories, and oil consumption. Results suggest that SNAP-Ed parent nutrition education was effective at improving family lifestyle behaviors, decreasing parent BMI, increasing parent nutrition knowledge, and improving dietary quality in children. The analysis of this study has led to the development of a program model that can be shared with other Extension service programs in other states to aid in the fight against childhood obesity.




This work made publicly available electronically on May 10, 2012.