(HealthDay News) – Eating meals together as a family leads to significantly higher consumption of fruits and vegetables for children, according to a study published online Dec. 19 in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.

In an effort to explore how home environmental and parental attitudes affect a child’s consumption of fruits and vegetables, Meaghan S. Christian, from the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom, and colleagues conducted a study involving 2,383 children (mean age, 8.3 years) who completed a 24-hour food tick list (Child and Diet Evaluation Tool).

The researchers found that, on average, children consumed 293g of fruits and vegetables per day. Compared with families who never ate a meal together, children of families who always ate a family meal together at a table consumed significantly more fruits and vegetables (125g per day). Consumption was also increased (88g) for those whose parents ate fruits and vegetables on a daily basis, compared with those whose parents rarely or never ate fruits and vegetables. Consumption of fruits and vegetables was increased if they were cut up for children; families that always cut up fruits and vegetables reported a 44g increased in consumption.

“In conclusion, the results from this study illustrate a positive public health message for parents, which could improve their own dietary habits and their children’s,” the authors write. “The key message from this research is for families to eat fruit and vegetables together at a mealtime.”

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