Research has shown that adolescents who frequently share evening meals with their families experience more positive health outcomes, including diets of higher nutritional quality. However, little is known about families eating together at breakfast.
This study examined sociodemographic differences in family meal frequencies in a population-based adolescent sample. In addition, this study examined associations of family breakfast meal frequency with dietary quality and weight status.
Cross-sectional data from EAT 2010 (Eating and Activity in Teens) included anthropometric assessments and classroom-administered surveys completed in 2009-2010.
Participants included 2,793 middle and high school students (53.2% girls, mean age=14.4 years) from Minneapolis/St Paul, MN, public schools.
Main outcome measures
Usual dietary intake was self-reported on a food frequency questionnaire. Height and weight were measured.
Statistical analyses performed
Regression models adjusted for sociodemographic characteristics, family dinner frequency, family functioning, and family cohesion were used to examine associations of family breakfast frequency with dietary quality and weight status.
On average, adolescents reported having family breakfast meals 1.5 times (standard deviation=2.1) and family dinner meals 4.1 times (standard deviation=2.6) in the past week. There were racial/ethnic differences in family breakfast frequency, with the highest frequencies reported by adolescents of black, Hispanic, Native American, and mixed race/ethnicity. Family breakfast frequency was also positively associated with male sex, younger age, and living in a two-parent household. Family breakfast frequency was associated with several markers of better diet quality (such as higher intake of fruit, whole grains, and fiber) and lower risk for overweight/obesity. For example, adolescents who reported seven family breakfasts in the past week consumed an average of 0.37 additional daily fruit servings compared with adolescents who never had a family breakfast meal.
Results suggest that eating breakfast together as a family can have benefits for adolescents' dietary intake and weight status.