Study of the Day: Kids in Families That Eat at Home Are Healthier

A literature review on family dining habits shows that children who seldom eat out consume less soda and more fruits and vegetables.

Study of the Day
Everett Collection/Shutterstock

PROBLEM: Over 40 percent of the typical American family's food budget is spent on eating out, a trend that has time and again been linked to bad food choices, increased obesity risk, and poor nutritional status.

METHODOLOGY: Rutgers researchers led by Jennifer Martin-Biggers reviewed 68 published studies that investigated the relationship between family mealtime and children's health. They looked at how frequency or atmosphere of family meals was related to consumption of both healthy foods, such as fruits and vegetables, and less desirable treats like soft drinks. The researchers also evaluated if the totality of scientific evidence thus far supports the claim that more frequent family meals decreases the risk of obesity.

RESULTS: Children who had frequent family meals tended to eat more fruits, vegetables, fiber, calcium-rich foods, and vitamins; and less dietary components thought to be harmful to one's health. Although the researchers found only a weak link between family meals and reduced obesity risk, kids in families with more family meals tended to have lower body mass indices than those who ate outside the home more often.

CONCLUSION: Eating as a family at home may lead to healthier food choices, but its relation to obesity remains a mystery.

SOURCE: The full study, "Benefits of Family Mealtime Across the Growing Years: A Conceptual Model," was presented at American Society for Nutrition's Experimental Biology 2012.

Presented by

Hans Villarica writes for and produces The Atlantic's Health channel. His work has appeared in TIME, People Asia, and Fast Company.

Things Not to Say to a Pregnant Woman

You don't have to tell her how big she is. You don't need to touch her belly.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Things Not to Say to a Pregnant Woman

You don't have to tell her how big she is. You don't need to touch her belly.

Video

Maine's Underground Street Art

"Graffiti is the farthest thing from anarchy."

Video

The Joy of Running in a Beautiful Place

A love letter to California's Marin Headlands

Video

'I Didn't Even Know What I Was Going Through'

A 17-year-old describes his struggles with depression.

Video

Google Street View, Transformed Into a Tiny Planet

A 360-degree tour of our world, made entirely from Google's panoramas

Video

The Farmer Who Won't Quit

A filmmaker returns to his hometown to profile the patriarch of a family farm

Video

Riding Unicycles in a Cave

"If you fall down and break your leg, there's no way out."

Video

Carrot: A Pitch-Perfect Satire of Tech

"It's not just a vegetable. It's what a vegetable should be."

More in Health

Just In