Family meals can help safeguard teenagers’ health

Washington, July 13: An expert has stressed that family meals are very important for teenagers, as they can help in protecting them from problems such as eating disorders, obesity, and inadequate nutrition.

Barbara Fiese, a University of Illinois professor of human development and family studies and director of the U of I’s Family Resiliency Center, said eating together as a family will safeguard teens’ health greatly.

“The common belief is that teens don’t want to be around their parents very much, and that teens are just too busy for regular meals with the family,” she said.

“Parents may not be able to get their families together around the table seven days a week, but if they can schedule three family meals a week, they will safeguard their teens’ health in significant ways,” she explained.

In the June issue of Pediatrics, Fiese and postdoctoral research associate Amber Hammons reviewed 17 recent studies on eating patterns and nutrition involving more than 182,000 children and adolescents.

The results showed that teens who eat at least five meals a week with their families are 35 percent less likely to engage in disordered eating than teens who don’t.

The researchers defined disordered eating as binging and purging, taking diet pills, self-induced vomiting, using laxatives or diuretics, fasting, eating very little, skipping meals, and/or smoking cigarettes to lose weight.

“For children and adolescents with disordered eating, mealtime provides a setting in which parents can recognize early signs and take steps to prevent detrimental patterns from turning into full-blowing eating disorders,” she said.

The researcher said that families who share meals together are likely to be more connected, which may encourage teens to talk within their families about unhealthy behaviours they’ve slipped into and other problems they’re experiencing. (ANI)