Family Dinners Improve Teen Diets
By Sandy Schroeder
If you have a teen, you know just how up-and-down dinner can be. Kids and parents may disagree and discussions may become heated, but the good news is family dinners help teens eat better.
Jama Network Open reported frequent family dinners encouraged teens and young adults to eat a more healthy diet even when there were family issues with schedules or views.
"The big thing is that over and beyond family functioning, family meals still matter when you're thinking about dietary intake for adolescents," said Kathryn Walton, doctoral student at the University of Guelph, Canada. who was a doctoral student at the University of Guelph, Canada.
Walton did her research as part of the long-running Nurses Health Study. Twenty-seven hundred kids ranging from age 14 to 24 were studied, assessing their interactions with parents, dinners and eating habits.
To assess family functioning the participants were asked to respond to statements like these.
- I feel like I am heard by my family
- I can talk about my problems with my family
- I can share my feelings with my family
In spite of mixed responses from participants, researchers found the more often teens and young adults ate with their parents, the healthier diet they had with more fruits and veggies and less fast food.
Other researchers endorsed the impact of eating together, and reminded us that family dinners can also help decrease risky behaviors and combat depression and anxiety. Just talking and listening and sharing a meal really can make a difference.
After the research, Walton said the big question is how do we get more family meals to happen? Here are a few suggestions.
Start small - Begin with just one meal a week and keep adding more.
Keep them low key - Don't make the dinners a big affair. Just pick favorite healthy foods that everyone likes.
Share dinner tasks - Assign tasks to everyone to help put dinner together more quickly and to teach cooking skills.
Fit schedules together - Take a look at everyone's schedule and find ways to fit them together to make room for a few family dinners.
Do other meals too - To make more room for more family meals, consider weekend breakfasts and lunches, and evening desserts.
Build upon success - Watch which foods work, or who loves to help in the kitchen, and work to shape more family meals in any way that you can. All of the reports indicate this is a wonderful way to stay in touch with your kids and to help them eat better.
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