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Family Meals during Adolescence Are Associated with Higher Diet Quality and Healthful Meal Patterns during Young Adulthood

      Abstract

      Background

      Cross-sectional research in adolescents has found that eating family meals is associated with better nutritional intake.

      Objective

      To describe meal patterns of young adults and determine if family meal frequency during adolescence is associated with diet quality, meal frequency, social eating, and meal structure during young adulthood.

      Design

      Population-based, 5-year longitudinal study in Minnesota.

      Subjects/setting

      Surveys and food frequency questionnaires were completed by 946 female students and 764 male students in high school classrooms at Time 1 (1998-1999; mean age 15.9 years) and by mail at Time 2 (2003-2004; mean age 20.4 years).

      Statistical analyses performed

      Multiple linear regression models were used to predict mean levels of young adult outcomes from adolescent family meal frequency. Probability testing of trends in each outcome across ordered categories of family meal frequency used linear contrasts.

      Results

      Family meal frequency during adolescence predicted higher intakes of fruit (P<0.05), vegetables (P<0.01), dark-green and orange vegetables (P=0.001), and key nutrients and lower intakes of soft drinks (P<0.05) during young adulthood. Frequency of family meals also predicted more breakfast meals (P<0.01) in females and for both sexes predicted more frequent dinner meals (P<0.05), higher priority for meal structure (P<0.001), and higher priority for social eating (P<0.001). Associations between Time 1 family meals and Time 2 dietary outcomes were attenuated with adjustment for Time 1 outcomes but several associations were still statistically significant.

      Conclusions

      Family meals during adolescence may have a lasting positive influence on dietary quality and meal patterns in young adulthood.
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      Biography

      N. I. Larson is a doctoral degree candidate, D. Neumark-Sztainer and M. Story are professors, and P. J. Hannan is a senior research fellow, Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.