Characteristics of Family Mealtimes Affecting Children's Vegetable Consumption and Liking


      Research has documented an association between family mealtimes and higher dietary quality in school-aged children and adolescents. However, there is little understanding of the specific characteristics of mealtimes that are beneficial and a lack of research with preschool-aged children. This cross-sectional study conducted in the United Kingdom in 2008 examined associations between mealtime characteristics and preschoolers' vegetable consumption and liking. Four hundred and thirty-four primary caregivers of children aged 2 to 5 years reported on children's vegetable intake and liking and completed a questionnaire on frequency of family meals, food preparation, and the social and environmental context of family mealtimes. Univariate and multiple linear regression analyses assessed mealtime variables and children's vegetable intake and liking. Multiple regression analysis revealed children's vegetable consumption was predicted by eating approximately the same food as their parents (β=.14; P≤0.01), using ready-made sauces (β=−.12; P≤0.05), and cooking from scratch (β=.11; P≤0.05), accounting for 21% of the variance (with covariates). Children's liking for vegetables was predicted by eating approximately the same food as their parents (β=.15; P≤0.01) and use of preprepared dishes (β=−.15; P≤0.01), accounting for 8% of the variance (with covariates). Frequency of family mealtimes was unrelated to children's vegetable consumption or liking in this sample. This contrasts with findings in older children and adolescents, where frequency of family mealtimes is related to dietary quality and intake. In preschool-aged children, it seems emphasis should be placed on encouraging parents to provide home-cooked meals that mirror those eaten by the adults in the family to improve vegetable intake.
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      C. Sweetman is a research associate, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, London, UK.


      L. McGowan is a research associate, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, London, UK.


      H. Croker is a clinical research dietitian, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, London, UK.


      L. Cooke is a senior research associate, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, London, UK.