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Family Meals = Healthier Weight?

December 2, 2013

‘Tis the Holiday Season! Our modern schedules are so crazy, it's hard enough to find the time to grab a bite, let alone prepare a meal and sit down with family and/or friends to eat. However, there could be some benefit to taking the time to eat together, research shows.

An interesting study came out in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics this year that looked at the physical and social characteristics of family meals and their associations with healthy eating habits and BMI (body mass index). The body mass index is one of the ways dietitians measure healthy body weight. Although this method has its flaws, it is simply one of the tools at our disposal that allows us to scientifically measure one’s health. While a BMI between 19-24 indicates healthy weight, generally a "lower BMI" refers to a healthy weight, while "higher BMI" generally refers to overweight or obese. Keep in mind, this is subjective terminology simply used to define the language in this article!

By looking at 41 families and their ranked mealtime interactions (such as communication, interpersonal involvement, roles, overall family functioning), researchers found some interesting correlations. Average family meals were about 19 minutes long, with at least one parent and at least two children present. The study found correlations between lower BMI and 6 of the total 7 healthy family mealtimes. All 7 of the healthy family mealtimes were associated with higher vegetable consumptions (though not with fruit consumption). This data supports and elaborates upon past research that found significant associations between family meal frequency and adolescent healthful eating behaviors.

What does this mean? Simply put, this study showed that eating together as a family increased vegetable consumption and was correlated with a healthier body weight in adolescents. Though mealtime was relatively short (19 minutes), these findings were significantly found in all 7 meal periods measured. It can also be speculated that eating as a family enforces healthier meals are eaten, as well as reduced "mindless eating." "Mindless eating" is the act of snacking or dining with a distraction (like television) and continuously eating without realizing the effect of feeling full.

So, this holiday season… enjoy yourself! Interact with your family and friends, have good conversation, de-stress from your fast-paced life and make an effort to eat well! Meals are one of the most unique aspects of the human experience - so experience them! Enjoy the Recipes tab for some great tips, and always know that you have a friendly guiding hand from Mr. Cook-It, providing nutritious solutions all year long!

Kevin Klatt, Nutritionist + Assistant Site Manager

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