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May 5, 2011 | 2 minute read

Family Meals for Kids' Healthy Eating Habits

Did you sit down with your kids last night for dinner? If so, and if family meals are relatively normal in your house, that’s likely a good thing when it comes to your kids eating habits, suggests a new study published in Pediatrics.

The study pooled data from 17 previous studies investigating family meals and nutrition, totaling approximately 183,000 children. Average ages ranged from 3 to 17.

After analysis, the authors found that children and adolescents who ate with their family three or more times per week were more likely to be in a normal weight range and eat healthier – including eating fruits, vegetables and breakfast – than kids who shared fewer than 3 family meals together. Staying a healthy weight — and eating a healthy diet – are both important for cancer prevention.

Children and adolescents who ate with their families regularly were 12 percent less likely to be overweight and 24 percent more likely to eat healthy foods compared to the kids who ate with their families fewer than three times weekly. Youths who eat regularly with their family are also less likely to take diet pills, use diuretics, fast and engage in other disordered eating habits.

The study is featured in yesterday’s issue of Cancer Research Update, which also highlighted new research on how red peppers may help curb our appetite. You can look at the whole issue here.

There are plenty of possible reasons why having family meals together can influence healthy eating habits and weight. The authors suggest that family meals allow times when parents can recognize early signs of unhealthy eating habits and then take steps to prevent it. What do you think?

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