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.