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Health-care providers should consider discussing dietary intake and physical activity with new parents, researchers say.

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Put down the Tang.

Mothers consume more sugary drinks, fat and calories than women without children, according to a study appearing in next month's issue of the journal Pediatrics.

Perhaps more surprisingly, parents engage in less physical activity than non-parents, hide-and-go-seek notwithstanding.

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The University of Minnesota study authors looked at 838 women and 682 men from diverse ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds and discovered that parenthood is linked to several negative health outcomes, particularly for young mothers.

These women had a slightly higher body mass index and poorer diets compared with young childless women. They reported consuming more sugar-sweetened drinks, calories and saturated fats than their kid-free counterparts.

More startling was the finding that both mothers and fathers got less exercise than non-parents, even with all that toy and sippy-cup fetching. (All the children of the parents were under 5 years old.)

The researchers conclude that it's key to help young women and men stay healthy while they balance parenting with other "life stressors." The other concern is that kids will pick up their parents' poor dietary and exercise habits as they contribute to them.

"Our findings suggest that pediatricians and health-care providers may want to consider discussing dietary intake and physical activity with new parents to identify ways to engage in healthful behaviors given the daily demands of parenthood, both to improve parents' own health and to help them model healthful behavior for their children," the authors write in a release for the study, published today online.

Do you find the study surprising, or do you simply see health as another casualty of the work-life-baby balancing game?

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