Family Dinners Lead to Healthier Diets
A study of over 2,500 teenagers and young adults in the US has found that regularly sitting down to family meals led to a healthier diet.
This included them being less likely to eat fast food or takeaways, and more likely to eat fruit and vegetables.
The study, run by researchers from Canada, the US and the UK, used data from a 2011 questionnaire which was completed by 2,728 teenagers and young adults aged 14 to 24 years old. The participants were all children of nurses in the US who had taken part in a previous study.
The researchers looked at the answers to the questions on food intake, for example how often they ate fruit and vegetables, fast food or takeaways, and how often they sat down to eat dinner with their family.
The questionnaire also asked about how well the person’s family functioned, for example how daily routines are managed, how they communicate and how they connect emotionally with each other.
Regularity of family dinners
The researchers then looked at any links between how often participants sat down to a family dinner, and what the quality of their diet was like. They took into account other factors such as the parents’ educational level and the family structure.
For both males and females, more frequent family dinners were associated with a healthier diet, and eating more fruit and vegetables each day. Those who had more frequent family dinners also ate less fast food and less takeaway food.
For males, if they had more family dinners, they drank less sugary soft drinks.
Interestingly, how well the family functioned didn’t appear to have an impact on the results.
The research, which was published in the journal JAMA Network Open, concluded that: “Participating in frequent family meals reduces opportunities to eat outside of the home; food eaten at home is often healthier than food eaten outside of the home.”
Promote involvement in meal preparation
The researchers suggest that the results of this study could provide the evidence needed to focus on improving the regularity of family meals in order to improve health in teenagers.
“Interventions that promote youth involvement in meal preparation may be particularly promising to not only lessen the burden of time, but to also strengthen the benefits that shared meals have on their dietary intake.”
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