Research Update: Family Meals Work
By: David Fikes, Executive Director, FMI Foundation
Every major decision I have made in my life got hammered out around the family dinner table. The cast of characters evolved as I moved from my family of origin to a family of friends, then to my own family, and certainly the issues I was deliberating at these different stages changed, but the constant has been the family dinner table. It has provided me the safe context in which I could probe all the implications of my choices from every angle; emotional, financial, psychological and in some cases geographical. I am convinced that the family meal is the place where love and support find their most fertile ground to take root and grow.
Helping families share meals together is a foundational purpose the various parts of the food industry opens its respective doors for business each day. New information published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior features a systematic review of research published in 31 articles on family meals and substantiates the food industry’s belief in their significant value. Here’s how:
- Family meals are a valuable contributor of improved nutrition and family functioning – which is defined as family connectedness, communication, expressiveness, and problem-solving.
- More frequent family meals support both emotional and physical well-being because they create better dietary outcomes and improve a family’s ability to address issues, support one another, and explore new possibilities.
- 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, but also when fruit and vegetable intake were combined.
This new study, supported by the FMI Foundation, employed the most comprehensive approach to date that explores the direction and magnitude of exposure to family meals and dietary and family functioning outcomes in children. This research also supports the work of the FMI Foundation and the food industry on National Family Meals Month™, which has grown over the last five years into an ongoing Family Meals Movement. We welcome suppliers, retailers, community collaborators and more to utilize this new research to strengthen their efforts to support families in sharing one more family meal together each week. And if you need a safe place to discuss and explore the possibilities of this opportunity, I strongly recommend your family dinner table.