Family meal patterns: associations with sociodemographic characteristics and improved dietary intake among adolescents

Dianne Neumark-Sztainer, Peter J Hannan, Mary Story, Jillian Croll, Cheryl Perry
Journal of the American Dietetic Association 2003, 103 (3): 317-22

OBJECTIVE: To examine family meal patterns and associations with sociodemographic characteristics and dietary intake in adolescents.

DESIGN: A population-based cross-sectional study design was employed. Adolescents completed the Project EAT (Eating Among Teens) survey and the Youth and Adolescent Food Frequency Questionnaire within their schools. Subjects/setting The study population included 4,746 middle and high school students from Minneapolis/St. Paul public schools with diverse racial and socioeconomic backgrounds. Statistical analyses Associations were examined using cross tabulations, log-linear modeling, and linear regressions.

RESULTS: There was a wide distribution in the frequency of family meals during the previous week: never (14.0%), 1 or 2 times (19.1%), 3 to 6 times (40.1%), and 7 or more times (24.8%). Sociodemographic characteristics associated with more frequent family meals included gender (boys), school level (middle school), race (Asian American), mother's employment status (not employed), and socioeconomic status (high). Frequency of family meals was positively associated with intake of fruits, vegetables, grains, and calcium-rich foods and negatively associated with soft drink consumption. Positive associations were also seen between frequency of family meals and energy; protein (percentage of total calories); calcium; iron; folate; fiber; and vitamins A, C, E, and B-6.

CONCLUSIONS: Family meals appear to play an important role in promoting positive dietary intake among adolescents. Feasible ways to increase the frequency of family meals should be explored with adolescents and their families.

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