Eating Meals With Family Helps Adolescents Maintain Healthy Dietary Habits

March 15, 2000

New York (MedscapeWire) Mar 15 - Nine-year-old to 14-year-old children who frequently ate dinner with their families had healthier dietary patterns than those who reported fewer family dinners, according to an article appearing in the March issue of the Archives of Family Medicine.

The researchers surveyed 7525 boys and 8677 girls who were the children of participants in the ongoing Nurses' Health Study II, to examine the association between frequency of eating dinner with family and measures of diet quality. The researchers found family dinner to be associated with higher consumption of fruits and vegetables and several beneficial nutrients, including fiber, folate, calcium, iron, vitamins B6, B12, C, and E. They also observed lower consumption of saturated fats, soda, fried foods, and foods that raise blood sugar levels.

The researchers determined that adolescents who joined their families for meals were not likely to increase potentially harmful intakes of whole dairy foods, snack foods, and red and processed meats. "Based on the results of this study, health professionals may support the efforts of family members to eat together as a means for improving the quality of diet among older children and adolescents," the authors conclude. The researchers believe that eating family dinners could lead to the consumption of fewer, less healthful ready-made dinners.

Arch Fam Med. 2000;9:235-240

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