A diet high in saturated fat can lead to obesity, high cholesterol, heart attacks and Type 2 diabetes.
"Parents of younger children do tend to bring in more convenience foods into the home more often," said Dr. Helena Laroche, the lead author on the study. "That may account for the difference in saturated fat intake."
Laroche's study appeared in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. It examined data collected in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults cohort study, which followed more than 2,000 young adults for 20 years.
Her research focused on the first seven years of a new parent's life, comparing how often they ate and what they ate to the eating habits of people without children.
It asked people to document how much saturated fat was in their diet, how many fruits and vegetables they ate, how often they went out for fast food, and how much soda and juice they consumed.
Other than with saturated fat intake, parents' diets were similar to those people without kids. "Ultimately, neither had the ideal diet at the end of seven years," Laroche said.
Still, Laroche said, parents should know that what they choose to eat sends powerful messages to their children.
"The big takeaway from our study is that we really do want parents to be better role models for their children when it comes to healthy eating," she said.
Image: Strawberry ice cream cone, via Shutterstock.