Family meals improve young people’s dietary intake


The more attention a family pays to eating together, the more balanced the food habits of adolescents and young adults tend to be as a result. According to a new study, family functioning does not affect this conclusion.

TV, smartphones, tablets… there are plenty of distractions that eat into the time we used to traditionally spend around the table with our families… And yet, this family time has certain benefits that should not be underestimated. Several studies have indeed shown that the frequency of family dinners is associated with an improved dietary intake among adolescents and young adults.

Impact of the level of family functioning

In a recent study, Canadian researchers asked American adolescents and young adults who live with their parents about the frequency with which they sat down at the table to have meals with their parents, combined with questions about their dietary intake.

For the first time, the researchers also looked at the family’s functioning, to determine whether this affects the relationship between the frequency of family dinners and the quality of the dietary intake. To this end, they examined how the family members managed their daily routine, how they communicated and how they connected on an emotional level.

More fruit and vegetables when families eat together

The results indicate that young people who eat meals with their family are more likely to have a better dietary intake, regardless of the level of family functioning. These young people eat more fruit and vegetables, less fast food or take-out food, and in the case of young males, drink fewer sugar-sweetened beverages compared to adolescents and young adults who are used to eating on the go or eating alone. According to the researchers, the shared family meals reduce the opportunities for eating out and are often more balanced than the meals these young people eat outside the home.

These findings are an important step forward in the fight against obesity. Adolescence and young adulthood is an important period during which teens and young adults develop healthy food habits, and increasing the frequency of family meals could contribute to this! Which is why it makes sense to encourage families to prepare food and eat meals together and, as a bonus, strengthen family ties!

Also read: Cooking Vegetables Made Simple

Walton K. et al., JAMA Network Open, 1(7), e185217-e185217.