Eating breakfast together as a family: Mealtime experiences and associations with dietary intake among adolescents in rural Minnesota, USA

Nicole Larson, Qi Wang, Jerica M. Berge, Amy Shanafelt, Marilyn S. Nanney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Objective Although existing evidence links breakfast frequency to better dietary quality, little is known specifically in regard to the benefits associated with eating breakfast together with one's family. The present study describes the prevalence and experience of having family meals at breakfast among rural families and examines associations between meal frequency and adolescent diet quality. Design Data were drawn from Project BreakFAST, a group-randomized trial aimed at increasing school breakfast participation in rural Minnesota high schools, USA. Linear mixed models were used to examine associations between student reports of family breakfast frequency and Healthy Eating Index 2010 (HEI-2010) scores while accounting for clustering within schools, demographics and household food security. Setting Adolescent students from sixteen schools completed online surveys, height and weight measurements, and dietary recalls at baseline in 2012-2014. Subjects The sample included 827 adolescents (55·1 % girls) in grades 9-10 who reported eating breakfast on at most three days per school week. Results On average, adolescents reported eating breakfast with their family 1·3 (sd 1·9) times in the past week. Family breakfast meals occurred most frequently in the homes of adolescents who reported a race other than white (P=0·002) or Hispanic ethnicity (P=0·02). Family breakfast frequency was directly associated with adolescent involvement in preparing breakfast meals (P<0·001) and positive attitudes (P≤0·01) about mealtime importance, interactions and structure. Family breakfast frequency was unrelated to most diet quality markers. Conclusions Family meals may be one important context of opportunity for promoting healthy food patterns at breakfast. Additional research is needed to better inform and evaluate strategies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1565-1574
Number of pages10
JournalPublic health nutrition
Issue number9
StatePublished - Jun 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Financial support: This work was supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (Principal Investigator: M.S.N., grant number R01HL113235).

Publisher Copyright:
© The Authors 2016.


  • Adolescents
  • Dietary intake
  • Family meals
  • Rural


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