THURSDAY, Dec. 20, 2012 (HealthDay News) -- Holiday dinners spent together as a family -- or any family dinner, for that matter -- can help boost children's intake of healthy fruits and vegetables, a new study finds.
Children who regularly dine with their families are also more likely to meet the World Health Organization's recommended daily intake of five 2.8-ounce portions of fruits and vegetables a day, according to the British study published online Dec. 19 in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.
"The results from this study illustrate a positive health message for parents, which could improve their own dietary habits and their children's," wrote Meaghan Christian, of the School of Food Science and Nutrition at the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom, and colleagues.
The researchers looked at the diets of more than 2,000 London primary school children. Their parents were asked to provide information about how often their families ate meals together.
On average, the children in the study ate about 10 ounces (3.7 portions) of fruits and vegetables per day, but children who sometimes or regularly ate meals with their family consumed more produce.
Compared to children who never ate meals with their families, those who sometimes ate meals with their families consumed an average of 3.4 ounces more of fruits and vegetables every day, while those who regularly ate meals with their families consumed an average of 4.5 ounces more per day, the study found.
Overall, children who regularly ate meals with their families met the WHO recommendations of five portions of fruits and vegetables a day, while those who sometimes or never ate meals with their families fell short, according to a journal news release.
Parents' eating habits also had an impact. For example, children whose parents ate fruits and vegetables every day ate an average of about 3 ounces more than kids whose parents rarely or never did so.
Children whose parents always cut up their fruits and vegetables also ate about 2 ounces more per day than those whose parents did not help in this way. And for every type of produce consumed in the home, children's intake increased by about 0.2 ounces daily, the investigators found.
"The key message . . . is for families to eat fruit and vegetables together at a mealtime," the research team concluded.
The Nemours Foundation has more about children and healthy eating.