Family Meal Patterns and Eating in Children and Adolescents
Families shape the food preferences and eating behaviors of young people in many ways. Mealtime socialization may be a particularly powerful influence, as youth learn about eating through active observations of their relatives and direct participation in mealtime practices. Family mealtime practices and social norms surrounding the nature of mealtimes have shifted over time. They vary across cultures and economic circumstances. However, the practice of sharing food and eating together is universally central in defining the family as a social group. It is therefore important to consider how family meals may promote good nutrition and healthy weights in children and adolescents. This chapter explores (1) the nutritional and weight-related benefits of family meals; (2) other benefits of family meals for children and adolescents; and (3) strategies for increasing the frequency of family meals. The chapter closes with suggestions for future research to improve our understanding of the potential benefits of family meals and ultimately enhance the design of nutrition programs for youth and families. © 2010 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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