Sitting down as a family at the dinner table appears to play an important role in promoting healthful eating among adolescents, according to a study published in the March 2003 issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

Researchers from the University of Minnesota found that children ages 11 to 18 who ate meals with their family consumed higher amounts of fruits, vegetables, grains and nutrient-dense foods than those who ate separately. Additionally, adolescents who consumed at least seven family meals per week had lower intakes of snack foods than those who ate fewer family meals.

"Adolescence is a time of rapid change and development and teenagers' diets may not be well balanced in terms of all the minerals, vitamins and nutrients they need," said registered dietitian and ADA Spokesperson Susan Moores. "This study is great proof that family meals can result in healthier dietary intakes for this group."

The researchers also found that boys consumed more family meals than girls, as did middle school children compared with high school students. In addition, study results showed that Asian-American families, families whose mothers were not employed and families with higher socioeconomic status ate meals together more frequently.

"Sitting down for a family meal provides more than just good nutrition. It can provide real quality time for the entire household," said Moores.

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The researchers suggest dietetics professionals working with adolescents and their families should explore opportunities to realistically increase family meals.

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The Journal of the American Dietetic Association is the official research publication of the American Dietetic Association and is the premier peer-reviewed journal in the field of dietetics and nutrition. With nearly 70,000 members, the American Dietetic Association is the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. Based in Chicago, ADA serves the public by promoting optimal nutrition, health and well-being.


American Dietetic Association