Eating meals with family helps adolescents maintain healthy dietary habits

March 13, 2000

Nine to 14 year olds 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, a member of the Journal of the American Medical Association family of journals.

The researchers surveyed 7,525 boys and 8,677 girls aged 9 to 14 years who were the children of participants in the on-going 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.

This research was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Md., and by Harvard Medical School and the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation, Boston. Dr. Gillman is a Robert Wood Johnson Generalist Faculty Physician Scholar.
(Arch Fam Med. 2000;235-240)

To contact lead author Matthew W. Gillman, MD, from Harvard Medical School and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, Boston, call John Lacey at 617/432-0441. For more information about the journal or to obtain a copy of the study, contact the AMA's Amy Jenkins at (312) 464-4843, or send email to .

Posted by the Center for the Advancement of Health < >. For information about the Center, call Petrina Chong, < > (202) 387-2829.

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