For over a decade, researchers have been actively investigating the health impact of family meals on teens. Results reveal that this one simple habit has a profound effect that extends far beyond food intake.
When the family meal is a regular habit, teens tend to be healthier, happier, and more well-adjusted. They also enjoy better academic performance. What’s more, these teens maintain a healthier body weight than their meal-skipping friends.
The mealtime secret
What’s the mealtime secret that’s helping teens stay lean and trim? Turns out, it’s not what’s on the plate, but what’s in the conversation, according to a new study that uncovers four previously unrecognized characteristics of table talk that help protect a teen from gaining excess weight.
For this study, university researchers recruited 41 families who had participated in two previous studies exploring eating and activity behaviors in teens and their families. This allowed for ready access to weight and other health information. The families agreed to be filmed during mealtimes to allow the researchers to directly observe food choices, conversations and other interpersonal dynamics.
The families were told that the goal of the study was to learn more about what a “modern day” family meal looked like. In reality, the researchers wanted to see firsthand how family members interacted and whether this interaction was linked to the teenagers’ weight or eating habits.
After some number crunching using validated research tools, the researchers found four specific types of interactions among family members that were significantly linked to a lower body weight among the teens. The findings are published in the June 2013 issue of the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Here’s a breakdown of the four types of table talk linked with a healthy body weight in teens:
- Family members clearly and directly share information with each other.
- Family members express feelings during the meals.
- Family members show genuine concern and interest in one another’s lives.
- Family members have high-quality interactions.
The bottom line
Healthy — and happy — family meals can help a teenager stay lean. Aim for at least five family meals each week, serve up nutritious meals, and fill the air with conversations that are engaging, upbeat and positive.
Need ideas for nutritious meals with enough flavor to entice teenagers? Check out The Feed Zone Cookbook: Fast and Flavorful Food for Athletes. This little treasure is marketed specifically to athletes — read where Lorna’s husband stumbled upon it — but the recipes are not only easy to prepare, but also use common ingredients, making them perfectly suited for any family table.
Here’s to enjoying more quality family meals!
Co-author of Eating for A’s
Liked this post? Subscribe to our RSS feed to get more.
PS – Teens, we’re here to help you on your quest to be the best you. If you have any questions or need additional information, just drop us a note and join us on Facebook. Take it one day at a time. Soon you’ll reach your goal. Work hard, play hard, study hard, and have fun! Good luck, the EatingFor Team is cheering you on!