No Time for Family Meals? Parenting Practices Associated with Adolescent Fruit and Vegetable Intake When Family Meals Are Not an Option

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Background Despite research linking family meals to healthier diets, some families are unable to have regular meals together. These families need guidance about other ways to promote healthy eating among adolescents. Objective Our aim was to examine the association between various parenting practices and adolescent fruit and vegetable (F/V) intake at different levels of family meal frequency. Design We conducted a cross-sectional, population-based survey of influences on adolescent weight-related behaviors using Project EAT (Eating and Activity in Teens) 2010. Participants/setting Participants were 2,491 adolescents recruited from middle/high schools in Minneapolis/St Paul, MN. Measures Adolescent F/V intake was ascertained with a food frequency questionnaire. Survey items assessed frequency of family meals and F/V parenting practices (availability, accessibility, parent modeling, parent encouragement, and family communication). Statistical analyses Linear regression models were used to examine associations with and interactions among family meals and parenting practices. Models were adjusted for age, sex, socioeconomic status, race/ethnicity, and energy intake (kilocalories per day). Results Family meals, F/V availability, F/V accessibility, F/V modeling, and encouragement to eat healthy foods were independently associated with higher F/V intake. Of the 949 (34%) adolescents who reported infrequent family meals (≤2 days/wk), mean F/V intake was 3.6 servings/day for those with high home F/V availability vs 3.0 servings/day for those with low home F/V availability. Similar differences in mean F/V intake (0.3 to 0.6 servings/day) were found for high vs low F/V accessibility, parental modeling, and parent encouragement for healthy eating. Frequent family meals in addition to more favorable parenting practices were associated with the highest F/V intakes. Conclusions Food parenting practices and family meals are associated with greater adolescent F/V intake. Longitudinal and intervention studies are needed to determine which combination of parenting practices will lead to improvements in adolescent diets.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)707-714
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics


  • Adolescence
  • Family meals
  • Fruit and vegetable intake
  • Parenting practices


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