Frequent Family Meals Can Contribute to Obesity Prevention in Teenagers

According to new guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), a two-fold simple approach could be used to prevent teenage obesity and eating disorders. Two recommendations emphasized by AAP focus on behaviors to promote:

Family Meals

  • Parents involvement to encourage more frequent family meals, and
  • Parental support towards building a positive body image among teenagers that can motivate them toward developing healthy eating and physical activity habits.

Eating disorders (EDs) are the third most common chronic condition in adolescents, after obesity and asthma.

There are advantages of family mealls, like,

  •   Improved dietary intake provide opportunities for modeling behavior by parents, even though family meals have not been shown to prevent obesity across ethnic groups.A higher frequency of family meals is associated with improved dietary quality, as evidenced by increased consumption of fruits, vegetables, grains, and calcium-rich foods and fiber and reduced consumption of carbonated beverages.  For example, suggest a peanut butter and jelly sandwich  be for lunch and some stir fried chicken and baked fish  for dinner. Have the kids help select healthy side dishes and snacks, such as salads, veggies with pasta or whole wheat flour and low fat cheese.
  •  According to a study, eating family meals together 7 or more times per week resulted in families consuming 1 serving more of fruits and vegetables per day compared with families who had no meals together. These improvements in dietary intake were sustained 5 years later during young adulthood.
  • Family meals also have been shown to protect girls from disordered eating behaviors. Most recently, a prospective study in more than 13 000 preadolescents and adolescents found that eating family dinners most days or every day during the previous year was protective against purging behaviors, binge eating, and frequent dieting. Family meals are perceived to be enjoyable  by girls which lead to protective from extreme weight-control behaviors.
  • Meals shared by a family are protective in a way that the teenagers consume healthier foods than teenagers would choose on their own; parents serve as a model for healthy food choices. They provide a time for teenagers and parents to interact; and parents can monitor their child’s eating and address issues earlier when they are aware of their child’s eating behavior.  Research indicates that eating together as a family at least four times a week has positive effects on children’s health and social development. For children, mealtime talks are an opportunity to learn about what’s important for them during a period when they are becoming increasingly independent.
  • Involve all family members in food preparation – share the load, teach lifelong skills in the kitchen and have fun with food.
  •  Educating children about intake of desserts not as the desired forbidden food, but food with limited access. Family meals can help in offering desserts on a limited basis, for example, only on the weekends. Explain to your children that desserts might be tasty, but that they do not provide nourishment. Getting good nourishment should be the primary goal of eating, although taking in sweets for entertainment can be okay in moderation.
  • Reduction in Wastage of food and making meals more fun. A meal plan can also help you finish leftovers, because a refrigerator full of forgotten food wastes money.

Family Meals

The key  for children and youth to regularly eat a meal (any meal!) with a meaningful adult in their lives is to sustain a healthy body. At first, some kids may take some time adjusting their taste buds if they have been used to a lot of packaged foods. They may ignore the sliced bananas or grapes on their plates. But don’t fret. It may take several days for their taste buds to adjust but they will. Don’t forget to serve yourself some healthy foods filled with more fruits and vegetables. This will go a long way, remember children watch what food choices you make and by eating healthy foods you can help your child develop healthier habits!

This new advice is important because although childhood obesity rates have begun to drop, obesity rates in adolescents have not declined. Helping teens maintain healthy weight without veering toward obesity or an eating disorder is more challenging for teens than it is for young children.



The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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