Family Food Preparation and Its Effects on Adolescent Dietary Quality and Eating Patterns

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Purpose The purpose of the study was to describe parent and adolescent involvement in food preparation for the family and to examine whether adolescents' food preparation involvement was related to their dietary quality (e.g., fruit and vegetable intake, sugar-sweetened beverage consumption, and various common nutrients) and eating patterns (e.g., frequency of breakfast, family meals, fast food intake). Methods Data from two linked population-based studies, Eating and Activity in Teens 2010 and Families and Eating and Activity among Teens were used in cross-sectional analyses. Mothers (n = 1,875), stepmothers (n = 18), fathers (n = 977), stepfathers (n = 105), and adolescents (n = 2,108) from socioeconomically and racially/ethnically diverse households participated in the study. Adolescents completed food frequency questionnaires and surveys in school. Parents individually completed surveys by mail or phone. Linear regression was used to estimate differences in adolescent dietary quality and eating patterns between those who do and do not engage in meal preparation. Results Parent and adolescent report of “usually preparing food for the family” was related to several sociodemographic characteristics, including race/ethnicity (minority populations), parent education (college or higher), parent employment status (part time or stay-at-home caregiver), household size (≤3 children), and adolescent gender (female). Adolescent involvement in food preparation for the family was significantly associated with several markers of better dietary quality and better eating patterns. In contrast, parent involvement in food preparation for the family was unrelated to adolescent dietary intake. Conclusions Results suggest that involving adolescents in food preparation for the family is related to better adolescent dietary quality and eating patterns. Public health interventions and health care providers may want to encourage adolescents to help with food preparation for the family. Additionally, adolescents may benefit from interventions/programs that teach cooking skills in order to increase the likelihood of participating in food preparation for the family.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)530-536
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Adolescent Health
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 1 2016



  • Adolescents
  • Diet quality
  • Food preparation
  • Obesity
  • Parents

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