Michael Harper for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
Recent research has shown that children who eat even occasional meals at home together with their family are more likely to get their recommended 5-a-day servings of fruits and veggies. In general, this research has shown that kids tend to eat whatever you put in front of them.
While placing a plate full of leafy greens and apples on the table might not automatically change a child´s eating habits, the study found that children generally eat what their parents and older siblings eat. Therefore, if the rest of the family is eating a healthy meal together, then the child is likely to eat the same thing.
This common-sense study was recently published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, a part of the BMJ group.
The study also found that a disturbing 63% of children do not eat the recommended number of servings of fruits and veggies suggested by the World Health Organization (WHO).
According to the numbers, children who always ate their meals with their families consumed on average one and a half portions of fruits and veggies more than those children who never ate with their families. Even those children who only ate with their families once or twice a week received some benefit, boosting their daily intake by 1.2 portions more.
According to Janet Cade, the study´s supervisor and professor at Leeds University´s School of Food Science and Nutrition, it doesn´t take much work to make sure these healthful foods make their way into a child´s diet.
“Even if it´s just one family meal a week, when children eat together with parents or older siblings they learn about eating. Watching the way their parents or siblings eat and the different types of food they eat is pivotal in creating their own food habits and preferences,” explained professor Cade.
Children from families who reported eating fruits and vegetables every day were found to consume at least one full portion more each day than children whose parents rarely ate these foods. This is a trend that expert nutritionist Meaghan Christian blames on the fast pace of today´s society.
“Modern life often prevents the whole family from sitting round the dinner table, but this research shows that even just Sunday lunch round the table can help improve the diets of our families,” said Christian, who conducted the study as a part of her PhD program.
“Since dietary habits are established in childhood, the importance of promoting the family meal needs to be more prominent in public health campaigns. Future work could be aimed at improving parental intake or encouraging parents to cut up or buy snack-sized fruit and vegetables.”
A number of recent reports have indicated that while childhood obesity is dropping slightly in some parts of America, there is still much work to be done to ensure our children´s health.
Roughly 17% of America´s children under 20 are currently considered obese, and further studies have shown that obese children often turn into obese adults. Eating more fruits and vegetables as can decrease weight as well as help to maintain a generally more healthy lifestyle.
But having more fruits and veggies with their parents isn´t the only benefit these kids receive from eating family meals, says Cade in closing.
“There are more benefits to having a family meal together than just the family´s health. They provide conversational time for families, incentives to plan a meal, and an ideal environment for parents to model good manners and behaviour.”