Come and get it! A discussion of family mealtime literature and factors affecting obesity risk

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The L.E.A.D. (Locate, Evaluate, and Assemble Evidence to Inform Decisions) framework of the Institute of Medicine guided the assembly of transdisciplinary evidence for this comprehensive, updated review of family meal research, conducted with the goal of informing continued work in this area. More frequent family meals are associated with greater consumption of healthy foods in children, adolescents, and adults. Adolescents and children who consume fewer family meals consume more unhealthy food. School-aged children and adolescents who consume more family meals have greater intakes of typically underconsumed nutrients. Increased family meal frequency may decrease risk of overweight or obesity in children and adolescents. Frequent family meals also may protect against eating disorders and negative health behaviors in adolescents and young adults. Psychosocial benefits include improved perceptions of family relationships. However, the benefits of having a family meal can be undermined if the family consumes fast food, watches television at the meal, or has a more chaotic atmosphere. Although these findings are intriguing, inconsistent research methodology and instrumentation and limited use of validation studies make comparisons between studies difficult. Future research should use consistent methodology, examine these associations across a wide range of ages, clarify the effects of the mealtime environment and feeding styles, and develop strategies to help families promote healthful mealtime habits.

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Advances in Nutrition

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