What's for dinner? Types of food served at family dinner differ across parent and family characteristics

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OBJECTIVE: To examine the types of food served at family dinner in the homes of adolescents and correlations with parent and family sociodemographic characteristics, psychosocial factors and meal-specific variables.

DESIGN: A cross-sectional population-based survey completed by mail or telephone by parents participating in Project F-EAT (Families and Eating and Activity in Teens) in 2009-2010.

SETTING: Homes of families with adolescents in Minneapolis/St. Paul urban area, MN, USA.

SUBJECTS: Participants included 1923 parents/guardians (90·8% female; 68·5% from ethnic/racial minorities) of adolescents who participated in EAT 2010.

RESULTS: Less than a third (28%) of parents reported serving a green salad at family dinner on a regular basis, but 70% reported regularly serving vegetables (other than potatoes). About one-fifth (21%) of families had fast food at family dinners two or more times per week. Variables from within the sociodemographic domain (low educational attainment) psychosocial domain (high work-life stress, depressive symptoms, low family functioning) and meal-specific domain (low value of family meals, low enjoyment of cooking, low meal planning, high food purchasing barriers and fewer hours in food preparation) were associated with lower healthfulness of foods served at family dinners, in analyses adjusted for sociodemographic characteristics.

CONCLUSIONS: There is a need for interventions to improve the healthfulness of food served at family meals. Interventions need to be suitable for parents with low levels of education; take parent and family psychosocial factors into account; promote more positive attitudes toward family meals; and provide skills to make it easier to plan and prepare healthful family meals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)145-155
Number of pages11
JournalPublic health nutrition
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014


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