Family meals can promote healthy eating habits in children

Home food environment and parental attitudes can have an impact on the fruit and vegetable intake of the children. A recent study published in the British Medical Journal’s Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health has found that having a family meal together regularly helps the children to achieve the recommended rate of fruits and vegetables.

For the study, the researchers analyzed the food eating habits of 2383 children attending 52 primary schools in London. The mean age of the children was 8.3 years. The diet of the children was assessed using the Child and Diet Evaluation Tool (CADET).The tool included questionnaires which were divided into School Food Diaries and Home Food Diaries.

It was observed, on an average, children consumed 293 grams of fruits and vegetables each day. However, those children who always ate with their family were likely to consume 125 grams of fruits and vegetables more. Even when the children ate family meals together only once or twice a week, their intake of fruits and vegetables was increased by 95 grams. 

The fruit and vegetable consumption of those children, who saw their parents eating fruits and vegetables regularly, was higher (80 grams more) compared to those children whose parents didn’t eat them. Similarly, there was an increase in the intake of fruits and vegetables by 44 grams when families regularly cut them for their children.

According to Professor Janet Cade from the University's School of Food Science and Nutrition, who was the lead author of the study, children learn a lot from their adults and siblings while observing them during a family meal. This goes a long way in the development of their food habits and preferences. The World Health Organization recommends that children should consume five portions of fruits and vegetables (400 grams) per day. However, almost 63% of the children fail to meet these recommendations.

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Date: 
Thursday, December 20, 2012
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