Public Health Nutrition

Epidemiology

What's for dinner? Types of food served at family dinner differ across parent and family characteristics

Dianne Neumark-Sztainera1 c1, Rich MacLehosea2, Katie Lotha1, Jayne A Fulkersona3, Marla E Eisenberga4 and Jerica Bergea5

a1 Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota, 1300 South Second Street, Suite 300, Minneapolis, MN 55454, USA

a2 Division of Biostatistics, Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, USA

a3 School of Nursing, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, USA

a4 Division of Adolescent Health and Medicine, Department of Pediatrics, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, USA

a5 Family Medicine and Community Health, School of Medicine, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, USA

Abstract

Objective To examine the types of food served at family dinner in the homes of adolescents and correlations with parent and family sociodemographic characteristics, psychosocial factors and meal-specific variables.

Design A cross-sectional population-based survey completed by mail or telephone by parents participating in Project F-EAT (Families and Eating and Activity in Teens) in 2009–2010.

Setting Homes of families with adolescents in Minneapolis/St. Paul urban area, MN, USA.

Subjects Participants included 1923 parents/guardians (90·8 % female; 68·5 % from ethnic/racial minorities) of adolescents who participated in EAT 2010.

Results Less than a third (28 %) of parents reported serving a green salad at family dinner on a regular basis, but 70 % reported regularly serving vegetables (other than potatoes). About one-fifth (21 %) of families had fast food at family dinners two or more times per week. Variables from within the sociodemographic domain (low educational attainment) psychosocial domain (high work–life stress, depressive symptoms, low family functioning) and meal-specific domain (low value of family meals, low enjoyment of cooking, low meal planning, high food purchasing barriers and fewer hours in food preparation) were associated with lower healthfulness of foods served at family dinners, in analyses adjusted for sociodemographic characteristics.

Conclusions There is a need for interventions to improve the healthfulness of food served at family meals. Interventions need to be suitable for parents with low levels of education; take parent and family psychosocial factors into account; promote more positive attitudes toward family meals; and provide skills to make it easier to plan and prepare healthful family meals.

(Received January 27 2012)

(Revised June 18 2012)

(Accepted August 24 2012)

(Online publication October 19 2012)

Keywords

  • Family meals;
  • Parents;
  • Adolescents;
  • Home food availability

Correspondence

c1 Corresponding author: Email neumark@epi.umn.edu

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