Family meals boost children's 5 A Day

C Albert Yeung, Consultant in Dental Public Health,
January 14, 2013

We all know eating together as a family can boost conversation, foster closeness and encourage healthy ways with food. However, a 2011 survey of 1354 people for the insurance firm Cornish Mutual found 48% of British households do not share a meal every day. [1]

This study shows that by having a family dinner together it can increase children's daily fruit and vegetable intake to reach the 5 A Day target. It reinforces the view that children learn more from what adults do than what they say, therefore it is the parental role modelling that helps shape their future habits.

The strengths of this study are its large sample size (2383 children) and reliable methods of assessing dietary intake through a validated food intake tool. However, there are limitations which have not been noted by the researchers.

This is a single sample of London schoolchildren taking part in trials assessing school gardening and diet. We do not know whether the children who were taking part in this trial may have particular characteristics that make them different from, for example, children selected from a completely random primary school sample. Also, the children in this London area may not be representative of the entire UK population in terms of culture and ethnicity, which may be related to family eating patterns.

While home environment and parental food attitudes are likely to influence the child's food intake, there may be other factors such as children's preference, social factors or peer pressure. One or a combination of these factors could directly influence the child's food intake.

In the United States, the month of October is the national "Eat Better, Eat Together Month". [2] A tool kit has been developed to promote family meal time. [3]

If your family isn't already making dining together a priority, now is the perfect time to start!

REFERENCES

1. Deborah Clark Associates. Press release: Half of UK families are not eating together. 24 February 2011. http://www.dca-pr.co.uk/Latest- News/Cornish-Mutual/Half-of-UK-families-are-not-eating-together-123.aspx

2. Healthy Meals Resource System. Eat Better, Eat Together Month. http://healthymeals.nal.usda.gov/features-month/october

3. Washington State University Nutrition Education. Eat Better, Eat Together Tool Kit. http://nutrition.wsu.edu/ebet/toolkit.html

Conflict of Interest:

None declared

Conflict of Interest

None declared