Family Meals among New Zealand Young People: Relationships with Eating Behaviors and Body Mass Index

Jennifer Utter*, Simon Denny, Elizabeth Robinson, Terry Fleming, Shanthi Ameratunga, Sue Grant

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: To examine the relationship between family meals and nutrition behaviors of adolescents. 

Design: Secondary analysis of Youth'07, a nationally representative survey. Setting: Secondary schools in New Zealand. Participants: Randomly selected adolescents (aged 13-17 years, n = 9,107) completed a multimedia and anonymous survey about their health. 

Variables Measured: Body mass index and eating behaviors. Analysis: Multiple logistic regression equations were used to determine the associations between family meals and body size and dietary behaviors, controlling for demographic variables. 

Results: Nearly 60% of young people shared a meal with their families 5 or more times in the previous week. Frequent family meals were associated with greater consumption of fruits and vegetables (P < 001), and breakfast (P < 001). Adolescents who frequently shared family meals were also more likely to report that what they ate in the past week was healthy than adolescents who did not (P < 001). There was no relationship between frequency of family meals and body mass index (P = 60). 

Conclusions and Implications: Data from the current study suggest that family meals cannot be used as a single strategy for obesity prevention, but they may provide an important opportunity for young people to consume healthy food.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-11
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Nutrition Education and Behavior
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2013
Externally publishedYes


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