Date of Award

8-2010

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science

Major

Nutrition

Major Professor

Hollie A. Raynor

Committee Members

Marsha Spence, Hillary N. Fouts

Abstract

Frequency of family mealtimes has been positively linked to dietary quality and weight status in children; however, there is a lack of research identifying what components of family mealtimes are associated with this positive effect. This study investigated family mealtime components that may impact dietary intake and weight status in children aged 5-11 years.

Participants were 50 parent/child pairs (child: age = 7.3 ± 2.0 years, female = 44%, standardized body mass index (zBMI) = 0.55 ± 1.0, overweight/obese = 26.0%; parent: age = 36.8 ± 8.7 years, female = 76%, BMI = 29.0 ± 6.6 kg/m2, overweight/obese = 74.0%) recruited at local doctors’ offices, churches, and a daycare for this cross-sectional study. Children were weighed and measured while parents completed questionnaires on child dietary quality and family mealtimes. The family mealtime questionnaire assessed six mealtime components: which meal, who was present, what type of food was served and eaten, where the food in the meal was prepared and/or eaten, how food was served, and the atmosphere of the meal. Barriers to family mealtimes were also assessed.

Parents reported that children’s daily servings consumed were: fruit = 2.1 ± 0.9; vegetables = 2.3 ± 1.1; low-fat dairy = 2.1 ± 1.3; sweetened drinks = 1.5 ± 1.6; and 100% fruit juice = 1.8 ± 1.3. Hierarchical regressions, with child and parent demographics controlled, found that greater frequency of dinner consumed at a restaurant/fast food establishment and limiting the child from eating too much were significantly (p < 0.001) related to greater sweetened drink intake. Not answering the phone or texting during the family meal was significantly (p < 0.05) related to lower fast food frequency. Limiting the child from eating too much was significantly (p < 0.01) related to greater child zBMI.

This suggests that family mealtimes eaten within the home, free of distractions, and with set rules may impact on child dietary intake and weight status. Experimental studies are needed to understand the potential cause and effect relationships between these variables.

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