Working mums feeling guilty for not spending enough time cooking can rest easy. Research shows they are no less likely to provide healthy meals for their children.
While overseas research has shown that mothers who work full-time spent less time cooking and ate more unhealthy takeaway meals, the new study shows Australian women may be prioritising cooking healthy food for their children.
The researchers asked mothers with children aged between four months and 22 years how pressed for time they were and what they had fed their family for dinner in the past week. Meals were judged on criteria including the amount of vegetables and salt they contained.
No matter whether pressure on time was low, medium or high, they were no more or less likely to provide healthy meals.
"These findings suggest that the preparation of a healthy meal is not beyond the scope of even the most time-pressured meal preparer," the study leader, Monica Beshara, wrote in the journal Appetite.
Ms Beshara had expected to find those pressed for time were less likely to prepare healthy foods.
''Our study shows simply increasing time resources is not necessarily going to improve children's meals,'' she said. "Mothers can be quite resourceful and creative in making sure they prepare a healthy meal.''
However, the research did find an indirect link between time-pressure and healthy meals. Busy women were more likely to lack confidence in their ability to cook healthily, and in turn those with low confidence were less likely to provide healthy meals.
Ms Beshara said she found not only was there no link between full-time work and unhealthy food, but pressure on time was not necessarily linked to work.
Part-time and stay-at-home mums were just as likely to say they felt pressed for time as women who worked full-time.
Editor's note: fathers were not included in this research project.