Cross-sectional studies have suggested that when families share meals, they achieve better diet quality and improved nutrient intake, and to some extent are better able to maintain appropriate body weight. Family mealtime may act as a protective factor for many nutritional health-related problems. For example, they provide an opportunity for parents to model good eating behaviors and create a positive atmosphere by providing time for social interaction and thus a sense of social support for all members. This review focused on high-quality epidemiological studies to determine if there is an association between family shared meals and dietary intake.
Insufficient evidence is available that examines the association between frequency of family meals and measures of dietary intake to draw a conclusion.
2015 DGAC Grade: Not assignable
Literature searches were conducted using PubMed, Embase and Cochrane databases to identify studies published in English in peer-reviewed journals from January 2004 to July 2014. Studies that met the following criteria were included in the review: randomized controlled trials (RCTs), prospective cohort studies; human subjects aged two years and older who were healthy or at elevated chronic disease risk; studies conducted in the United States. The intervention or exposure was frequency or regularity of family and shared meals. The outcome was measures of weight including incidence of obesity or overweight, body mass index (BMI), waist circumference, body weight, body composition and growth indices.
Data from each included article were extracted and risk of bias was assessed by two abstractors. The evidence was qualitatively synthesized, a conclusion statement was developed and the strength of the evidence (grade) was assessed using pre-established criteria that included evaluation of the quality and risk of bias, quantity, consistency, magnitude of effect and generalizability of available evidence.
- Two publications from one prospective cohort assessed the relationship between frequency of family meals and dietary intake in children transitioning from early to middle adolescents and into young adulthood
- Studies found increased consumption of family meals was associated with improved dietary intake, specifically an increase in fruits and vegetables and calcium-rich or milk-based foods
Only one cohort was studied to examine the impact of family meals on diet quality