Nutrition and Health Sciences, Department of


Date of this Version

Spring 5-2016


The Relationship between the Home Food Environment and Weight Status among Children and Adolescents, ages 6-17 years, Martha J. Nepper. PhD diss., University of Nebraska


A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Major: Interdepartmental Area of Nutrition, Under the Supervision of Professor Weiwen Chai. Lincoln, Nebraska: May, 2016

Copyright © 2016 Martha J. Nepper


The home food environment is an important setting in regard to a child’s dietary intake and the development of obesity, since 65% to 72% of daily calories are consumed in the home. Research is beginning to explore how the home food environment may influence children’s weight status. It is suggested that homes with healthy weight children are more likely to have healthier food options available and limit access to unhealthy foods. Prior research on the influence of the home food environment on children and adolescent’s weight status is not clear, as some researchers have found that the home food environment does not influence the weight status of children and adolescents, while other researchers have found conflicting results. The purpose of this study is to 1) to develop and test a parent-friendly home food checklist to assess the availability and visibility of healthy and unhealthy food and beverages in the home; 2) to compare the differences in the availability and visibility of home healthy and unhealthy foods and family meal variables between healthy weight and overweight children; and 3) to explore challenges and strategies in promoting healthy eating in the home among parents of healthy weight and overweight children.

The study found that the home food checklist showed acceptable validity and reliability and can be used independently by parents to assess the foods in the home. Additionally, the study found that overweight children and adolescents had lower scores of total unhealthy foods and total unhealthy refrigerator foods visible compared to healthy weight children. Overweight among children was inversely associated with refrigerator visibility of unhealthy foods in the home, and children who had family meals more frequently were less likely to be overweight. The study determined that while parents faced numerous challenges in promoting healthy eating in the home, they utilized several strategies in providing healthy foods. The home environment is complex and multifactorial and continues to warrant further research to understand fully the impact of the home environment on a child’s weight.

Advisor: Weiwen Chai