Posted on Mar 13, 2020, 8 p.m.
Meals can be a good way to bring people together, and this may be especially true for families with young children. According to a recent study led by the University of Delaware family dining leads to better dietary practices and stronger family bonding.
As Americans celebrate National Nutrition Month, this family meal movement study was a review of other peer reviewed studies regarding family meals, analysis reveals that more frequent family dining lead to increased intake of fruits and vegetables along with overall healthier eating and a positive increase in measures of family functioning including connectedness, communication, and family cohesion.
“This study employed a comprehensive approach to explore the direction and magnitude of the relationship between exposure to family meals and dietary and family functioning outcomes in children,” says lead author Dr. Shannon M. Robson, and an assistant professor in the Department of Behavioral Health and Nutrition at Delaware, in a press release.
Meta analysis findings indicate that family dining also has a positive outcome with regards to sugary and sweetened beverages such as soft drinks/soda/pop, but the analysis is inconclusive regarding other unhealthy food choices such as desserts, fast food and snacks.
“There are thousands of individual studies that examine the impact of family meals on nutrition and family behavior, but this new meta-analyses looks at the relationship between family meal frequency and family functioning outcomes,” said David Fikes, executive director of the Food Marketing Institute Foundation, the organization that provided a research grant for this study.
While this study does indicate that frequency of family dining may lead to improved communication, overall family functioning and better dietary practices, the authors conclude that more research should be conducted to confirm their findings and to help determine the relationships between unhealthy food consumption and family dining.
The authors of this study which was published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior also suggest that standardized measures of family dining and associated outcomes should be developed to help clarify the findings of studies regarding family dining.
Notable findings include that overwhelmingly a positive relationship was found between family dining frequency and fruit and vegetable intake when examined separately as well as combined intake; and the systematic review and meta analysis demonstrated improved measures of family functioning with frequency of family dining.
"It is particularly fitting that as we celebrate National Nutrition Month, we can confirm that family meals are a valuable contributor of improved nutrition and family functioning. This compelling evidence energizes us to expand our National Family Meals Month efforts to a year-long Family Meals Movement. Even more impressive than the positive behavior changes we have seen over the past five years," Fikes continued, "is that 89% of Americans believe it's important for families to have as many family meals as possible each week, and 84% are willing to commit to doing so throughout the year. This kind of interest and commitment has motivated us to expand National Family Meals Month to the ongoing Family Meals Movement."
The FMI Foundation encourages families to share at least one or more meals together at home per week using items from the grocery store. Families can even post photos, recipes, shopping tips or similar online using the hashtag #FamilyMealsMovement or visit their website for consumer tips and links to others that are committed to helping families achieve an increased family meal goal.
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This article is not intended to provide medical diagnosis, advice, treatment, or endorsement