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Family Meals Help Teens Develop Healthy Eating Habits

Benefits of shared mealtimes in adolescence seen five years later

THURSDAY, March 26 (HealthDay News) -- Family mealtimes in adolescence are associated with healthful eating habits later in life, according to research published in the March issue of the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.

Teri L. Burgess-Champoux, Ph.D., of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, and colleagues conducted a study of 677 adolescents, of whom 303 were males and 374 were females, who were surveyed two times, during middle school when their mean age was 12.8 years and during high school when their mean age was 17.2 years.

Participants who reported regular family meals during the first time period were more likely to have regular meals during the second time period, with the association applying for breakfast, lunch and dinner for males, and breakfast and dinner for females, the researchers report. Daily consumption of vegetables, fiber, vitamins, minerals and calcium-rich foods was also better among high schoolers who reported regular family meals during the middle school years, the investigators found.

"The evening dinner meal could provide an opportunity for family members to not only share a meal together, but also to establish and maintain open communication that promotes the development of stronger family relationships and enhanced adolescent well-being," the authors write. "Furthermore, providing adolescents with the knowledge and skills to develop greater self-efficacy to select healthful food has the potential to positively impact their future health and overall well-being."

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