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A Family Thanksgiving

A Family Thanksgiving

A look at how family meals are healthier

As we approach one of the biggest family meals of the year, we got to thinking: holiday celebrations aside, what is it about the family meal that makes it so much better for you?  Is it because healthier food options are served, because the TV is off, you tend to eat slower, or because you’re sitting around a table?  Or is there something about parents  modeling good eating habits?  Research published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dieteticsenrolled over 272 caregivers to learn more. 

Participants in the study agreed to video record three regular evening meals prepared and served for children.   Researchers required that meals were either picked up or prepared by a primary caregiver and those meals had to be eaten at home while the caregiver was awake.  After the meal investigators checked in by phone to record items that were eaten to assign a Healthy Meal Index score which takes into account the presence of foods that should be part of a healthy diet (adequacy), as well as absence of foods that should be limited (moderation). 

A variety of situations were observed; some meals were served family style, others were plated, some had the tv on, and some had all family members present at the table.  Ultimately all of these meals were associated with higher total HMI scores.  Those served family style were more likely to include foods like fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains while meals enjoyed at the table were less likely to include foods that should be avoided - think convenience foods and sugar-sweetened beverages. 

Two non-food and very Thanksgiving takeaways – serve meals family style and enjoy meals together at the table.  Simply doing these things may help bring other helpful elements of meals into place.  Try doing these two things to let Thanksgiving goodness linger year-round. 

Published November 1, 2022

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