While you may have already suspected something about the health value of meal times shared as a family, a group of American researchers published some research on this very topic a few years ago.
Their report found a positive relationship between the frequency of eating the evening meal as a family and the quality of the diet for a population of girls and boys aged 9-14 years. Specifically, those children who ate dinner with their family at home more regularly had more nutritious dietary patterns. The positive dietary aspects observed by the researchers in this group (versus those who ate at home less frequently) included:
- A higher intake of fruits and vegetables
- A lower intake of fried food and soft drinks
- A higher intake of essential nutrients, including dietary fibre, calcium, folate, iron, a range of vitamins
- A lower intake of saturated fats and trans fatty acids as a proportion of total energy intake
- Certainly food for thought with our busy lifestyles – not only is eating together an opportunity to build relationships, but also to build good eating habits.
- Gillman, MW et al, Family Dinner and Diet Quality Among Older Children and Adolescents, Arch Fam Med 2000;9:235-240.