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Eating Meals Together With Family Boosts Nutrient Intake in Children

Update Date: Dec 20, 2012 09:09 AM EST

Children are more inclined towards junk food and it is difficult to ensure they are reaching The World Health Organization recommended five portions intake of fruits and vegetables every day. A new research suggests that parents may want to consider regular family meals round a table in order to boost fruit and vegetable intake in children.

It is known that regular intake of fruits and vegetables promotes good health and staves off serious disease and obesity in later life.

However, in spite of various measures taken by parents and the government, the consumption still falls below recommended levels in many countries across the world.  The home environment plays a key role in assuring the intake and shaping the dietary habits in children where cues taken from parents exert the most influence on the quality of a child's diet, say the authors of the study.

For the study, the researchers observed the diets of more than 2000 primary school children, attending 52 different schools across London.

The average age of the participants was eight and the parents of the children were asked to fill in a questionnaire through which, the researchers assessed the nutritional intake of the children. Also, the parents were asked to complete a home food diary, wherein they were asked to write details on how often the family ate meals together and how much of fruits and vegetable the parents themselves consumed.

The findings of the study revealed that on an average, the children ate 293g of fruit and vegetables a day, which is equivalent to 3.7 portions. However, children whose families had meals together consumed the most amounts of veggies and fruits.

Among the 1516 children whose parents completed the home food diaries, those who sometimes ate family meals together ate 95g more fruit and vegetables every day than those who never ate together, Medical Xpress reported.

But it was found that in families that had meals together always, children consumed 125g more fruits and vegetables every day on an average. There were other factors as well which determined the intake. The parents' consumption of fruits and vegetables also seemed to affect the intake of children. Household where parents consumed fruits and vegetables every day, their children's consumption also increased by 88g in comparison to children whose parents rarely or never did so.

Also, the finds revealed that those children whose parents cut up the fruits and vegetables for them ate around 44g more than those whose parents did not.  

"The results from this study illustrate a positive health message for parents, which could improve their own dietary habits and their children's," write the authors. "The key for families to eat fruit and vegetables together at a mealtime."

The research was published online in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. 

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