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Family Nutrition: Mealtime- important through teenage years and beyond

We’ve all heard it.  It is important to value mealtime and eat with your family each night.  Some of us are champs at this and some struggle to get it all together.  This is something I sometimes struggle with which is why I was so interested at the findings of Fiese and Amber Hammons who reviewed 17 studies involving nutrition and eating patterns.  Results were published in the June issue of Pediatrics.

After reviewing more than 182,000 adults and children, results showed that teenagers who ate at least five meals a week with families had  35% less of a risk in disordered eating. It also found that those who ate at least three meals a week with their families were 12% less overweight and were 24% more likely to eat healthy foods than those who did not share family mealtime.

Researchers suggest that if mealtime is not a forced activity children and teenagers are more likely to be more connected to their family and talk about unhealthy behaviors.  One cannot argue that eating together also gives the parents a chance to evaluate their child’s eating patterns.

National surveys suggest that shared mealtime drops significantly in the teen years secondary to after school activities, jobs, and social lives.  If you are in the teen years or close, here are a couple of suggestions to help get you to the minimum of three shared meals a week.

1)      Plan which nights you will eat together and put in on the calendar so everyone’s calendars are synched.
2)      Have dinner around the same time on these three nights.
3)      Plan ahead by insuring you know what meals you will serve and that you have the right ingredients to remove any chaos from the event.
4)      Get your kids involved with the cooking if possible.
5)      Allow for open communication.

Disordered eating in this study is labeled as binging and purging, taking laxatives or diuretics, taking diet pills, self-induced vomiting, fasting, eating little, skipping meals, and smoking cigarettes to lose weight.  Be on the look out for cues to disordered eating.  Do you eat at least three meals a week together as a family?  If you don’t here’s to getting there. Good luck and be well. 

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