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Want your kids to eat more fruits and veggies? Have a family dinner

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Family dinners boost fruit and vegetable intake for kids, finds study.

Researchers in London found out how parents get their kids to their 5 servings of fruits and veggies a day that can shape their food habits for life. It’s a simple matter of sitting down to dinner as a family.

If you sit down for a family meal even just once or twice a week it can have a big impact on getting your children to eat the recommended 400 grams of fruits and vegetables each day, the study found.

Researchers looked at how family dining impacts fruit and vegetable intake in an investigation that included almost 2400 children from 52 schools in South London.

Parents kept a food diary in the form of a check list to track their child’s food and drink intake over a 24-hour period.

Among the participants, 92 families reported they never ate dinner at the table together; 768 said they did ‘sometimes’ and 656 reported they always have dinner together.

Children who always ate dinner with their family ate 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day. Those who had dinner with the family sometimes ate 4.5 servings. But children from families who never eat together at the table only consumed 3.3 servings.

Family dinners shape children’s eating habits for life

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Prof Janet Cade, of the University of Leeds' school of food science and nutrition, who led the study, said in a press release "Watching the way their parents or siblings eat and the different types of food they eat is pivotal in creating children's own food habits and preferences."

She explains that dietary habits are formed during childhood, making promoting family meals an important component of public health messages.

Children who eat in front of the TV in their bedrooms are more likely to be obese, compared to their peers, found in a recent study.

Azmina Govindji, of the British Dietetic Association explains eating at the table instead of in front of the television can lead to mindful eating, which is also shown to help lower the chances of obesity.

Mindful eating can help us remain aware of when we’re full versus emotional eating that happens when we’re distracted by other activities.

The research suggests children can develop better eating habits that carry over into adulthood by sitting down for a family dinner. Getting plenty of fruits and vegetables in the diet each day can led to better health and lower the chances of type 2 diabetes that is increasingly being diagnosed in children.

J Epidemiol Community Health

Image credit: Morguefile