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Family Meals Can Provide Mental and Physical Benefits

New research finds that more frequent family meals were associated with better dietary outcomes and family functioning outcomes. The new findings confirm the myriad benefits advanced by family meals advocates over the past few year.

“This study employed a comprehensive approach to explore the direction and magnitude of the relationship between exposure to family meals and dietary and family functioning outcomes in children,” said lead study author, Shannon M. Robson, Ph.D., M.P.H., R.D., an assistant professor in the Department of Behavioral Health and Nutrition at the University of Delaware. Robison is also a Principal Investigator of the Energy Balance and Nutrition Laboratory.

Researchers performed a systematic review and meta-analysis (when statistically appropriate) of all relevant studies published in a peer reviewed journal in English prior to December 2018 was conducted. The study appears in Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior (JNEB).

Investigators believe there are two notable findings to this study:

1. Family meals improve fruit and vegetable consumption. Overwhelmingly, studies showed a positive relationship between family meal frequency and fruit and vegetable intake when examined separately and also when fruit and vegetable intake were combined.
2. Family meals improve family functioning — nearly all the studies included in the systematic review and meta-analysis demonstrated a positive relationship between family meal frequency and measures of family functioning. Family functioning is defined as family connectedness, communication, expressiveness, and problem-solving.

“There are thousands of individual studies that examine the impact of family meals on nutrition and family behavior, but this new meta-analyses looks at the relationship between family meal frequency and family functioning outcomes,” said David Fikes, executive director of the FMI Foundation.

Established in 1996, the FMI Foundation seeks to ensure continued quality and efficiency in the food retailing system and is operated for charitable, educational and scientific purposes.

“It is particularly fitting that we can confirm that family meals are a valuable contributor of improved nutrition and family functioning,” explains Fikes. “This compelling evidence energizes us to expand our National Family Meals Month efforts to a year-long Family Meals Movement.”

For the past five years, the FMI Foundation has driven National Family Meals Month™ which has been observed each September. The campaign has encouraged Americans to strive for just one more family meal per week at home and energized more than 600 partners — food retailers, suppliers, collaborators, media and celebrities — to support the campaign.

Nationally, a Harris Poll national tracking study found that 36 percent of Americans who saw the campaign are cooking more meals at home and eating together more often as a family.

“Even more impressive than the positive behavior changes we have seen over the past five years,” Fikes said, “is that 89 percent of Americans believe it’s important for families to have as many family meals as possible each week, and 84 percent are willing to commit to doing so throughout the year. This kind of interest and commitment has motivated us to expand National Family Meals Month to the ongoing Family Meals Movement.”

The FMI Foundation encourages Americans to join the Family Meals Movement by pledging to share one more family breakfast, lunch or dinner at home per week using items from the grocery store.

Source: The Ginger Network/EurekAlert
Photo: The most comprehensive study to date proves that family dynamics improve with the frequency of family meals. Credit: Food Marketing Institute Foundation.

Family Meals Can Provide Mental and Physical Benefits

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2020). Family Meals Can Provide Mental and Physical Benefits. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 3, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 11 Mar 2020 (Originally: 11 Mar 2020)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 11 Mar 2020
Published on Psych All rights reserved.