Below are some recent news and research information you may find interesting. We’ll update this section periodically, so please check back. Additional research topics include:

Plant-Based Diets

Carb Intakes and Athletes

Children and Snacking


Family Meal Time

New research on family meal time from the University of Minnesota Medical School (Department of Family Medicine and Community Health).

Adolescent involvement in family food preparation may influence dietary quality and eating patterns

Berge et al. Family Food Preparation and Its Effects on Adolescent Dietary Quality and Eating Patterns. Journal of Adolescent Health (2016); 59(5):530-536. DOI: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2016.06.007

Background: Since the 1960s at-home food preparation has declined and low-income households have had the largest reduction in time spent preparing food at home. It has been suggested that adolescent involvement in meal preparation may influence quality of dietary intake and frequency of family meals. However, it is unknown what impact, if any, family sociodemographic characteristics and family structure have on adolescent health behaviors.    

Objective: Assess the participation of adolescents and parents in family meal preparation and determine if adolescents’ involvement in food preparation was related to their eating patterns and diet quality.   

Subjects/Methods: Regression models were used to conduct cross-sectional analyses of two population-based studies (Eating and Activity in Teens 2010 and Families and Eating and Activity among Teens), which included parents (n = 2,976) and adolescents (n = 2,029) from racially/ethnically and socioeconomically diverse households.  

Results: Approximately 88% of mothers and 40% of fathers who participated reported that they usually prepared food for the family, while approximately 36% of adolescents reported this to be true, with female adolescents more likely to be involved in food preparation than males. Race/ethnicity, number of children in the home, parent education and employment status were associated with usual preparation of food for the family; however, parent report of food preparation for the family did not differ with household income. Additionally, adolescent grade level and parent involvement did not influence adolescent’s report of family food preparation. Adolescents who helped prepare dinner (3+ times/week) had higher intake of fruits, vegetables, and select nutrients (iron, calcium, folate, vitamin D, vitamin C, fiber) compared to those who helped prepare dinner less than 3 times per week. Adolescents involved to a greater extent in family meal preparation also had more family meals per week and higher consumption of fast-food. The dietary quality and eating patterns of adolescents were not associated with reported parental involvement in food preparation. 

Conclusions: Adolescent involvement in family meal preparation was related to diet quality and eating patterns. Parental and adolescent participation in food preparation was associated with several sociodemographic characteristics and it could be beneficial to create programs that focus on adolescent involvement in cooking family meals.

Funding Sources: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

Similarities and differences exist in family meal perspectives of diverse households with and without overweight/obese children 

Berge et al. Perspectives About Family Meals from Racially/Ethnically and Socioeconomically Diverse Households With and Without an Overweight/Obese Child. Childhood Obesity (2016); 12(5):368-376. DOI: 10.1089/chi.2015.0215

Background: Eating together as a family has been associated with health benefits in children and adolescents, including improved dietary intake and better psychological wellbeing. However, there is limited insight into the family dynamics and rules/responsibilities that may explain the relationship between family meal frequency and child weight status. Further, it is unknown if race/ethnicity and socioeconomic factors modify this relationship.     

Objective: Examine characteristics of family meals in diverse households with or without an overweight/obese child.

Subjects/Methods: Parents (n = 118) of children ages 6 – 12 (50% overweight/obese, 50% normal weight; 46% female) who participated in the cross-sectional, Family Meals, LIVE! study, which aimed to identify the relationship between family home environment factors and eating behaviors. The parents were primarily female (92%) from racially/ethnically and socioeconomically diverse households (87% minority, 73% with income <$35,000 per year) and they were asked questions about reasons for family meals, rules during mealtimes, child behaviors during family meals, and meal preparation behaviors. Deductive and inductive content analysis was applied to data which were first stratified by child weight status.    

Results: Similarities and differences existed in themes associated with family meals in households with normal weight children and overweight/obese children. A greater percentage of parents with normal weight children reported having family meals to promote connection and communication between family members, and not having a ‘clean your plate’ rule. Conversely, a greater percentage of parents with overweight/obese children reported having family meals out of ‘tradition’, having a ‘clean your plate’ rule, allowing children to use devices during meal times, observing child behavior issues during meal times, and having issues getting children to help with meal clean up. Both groups of parents reported having family meals to feed people and to feed children more healthfully, having rules about manners, having an ‘at least try it’ rule, and involving children in meal preparation.     

Conclusions: These qualitative findings suggest that parents of normal weight and overweight/obese children from diverse households share some perspectives about family meals, and also display some differences. The differences observed could serve as potential intervention targets for households with overweight/obese children. Longitudinal, randomized controlled trials will help to identify characteristics of family meal experiences which influence child weight status.   

Funding Source: National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Disease (NIDDK)