The Healthy Family Meal with Married – but Not Wealthy – Parents

Public-health officials well understand that young children and adolescents are much more likely to eat healthy, well-balanced meals if they eat them with their family than if they eat them on their own or with peers. But how does family structure affect the likelihood that young people will in fact eat meals with their family? After carefully investigating this question, a team of epidemiologists at Ohio State University recently concluded that, compared to peers living in single-parent homes, children and adolescents living with married parents enjoy a distinct advantage in eating family meals. But these researchers also uncovered evidence that twenty-first-century America’s two-career formula for amping up household income may be jeopardizing children’s health by reducing the number of family meals.   The authors of this study begin their work cognizant that “family meals are increasingly promoted as a strategy for improving public health and preventing obesity.” After all, previous research has shown that “frequency of family meals in adolescence was positively correlated with eating with others in young adulthood which in turn was linked to greater reported intake of nutrient dense foods such as fruits and vegetables, particularly for females.” Early studies have also concluded that compared to peers who do not eat family meals, adolescents who eat with their families face a “reduced risk for overweight and obesity in young adulthood.” The benefits of family meals established by earlier research even extend to parents: one recent study cited by the authors of this new inquiry finds “a positive association between family meal frequency and consumption of fruits and vegetables for mothers and fathers.” Intent on determining the sociodemographic characteristics that correlate with the frequency with which families eat together, the Ohio State scholars analyze survey data collected between 2007 and 2010 for 18,031 individuals living i
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