Not all families have enough time to sit down and eat dinner together, every night. In fact, some families are lucky if they have dinner together twice a week. While having family meals is the best method of including vegetables and fruits in a teenager’s daily consumption, it is understandable with today’s lifestyle that a family dinner is just not possible every night. Therefore, researchers have begun studying different methods that may increase the daily consumption of fruits and vegetables in adolescents. Once these methods are created and used within the household, it is more likely that they will be continued when the adolescent grows up and has a family.
Certain subtle tricks have been researched in observational studies in order to learn what does and does not have an impact on nutritional health. According to Watts et al.,1 family meals, fruit and vegetable availability and accessibility, parental models, and encouragement to eat fruits and vegetables all play a role in the number of servings consumed by an adolescent on a daily basis. Five servings of fruits and vegetables is the recommended daily amount required for a healthy lifestyle. However, kids who do not have family meals frequently reported eating only 3.3 servings a day.2 Some positive practices that you can begin in your family are having vegetables and fruits cut up and ready to eat, making them visible and easy to access, and eating vegetables with the younger population in the household so that they can learn by example. It is also important to have adolescents learn to prepare these vegetables and how to include them in meals for future application in their own lives. For those trying to save money, buying canned or frozen fruits and vegetables may be a better option. Remember to always keep an eye out for the nutrition panel on canned foods. Purchasing sale items labeled “Buy One, Get One Free” is another way to get more bang for your buck.
Overall, the combination of regular family meals and setting an example for the adolescents had the greatest positive impact on the amount of fruits and vegetables consumed2. As obesity becomes an epidemic in the American population, it is important to set food standards from a young age. Nutrition is one of the keys to good health. As such, beginning healthy practices at a younger age can set the stage for the future. This will hopefully decrease the rates of obesity, as well as many other diseases that occur from poor nutrition as age increases.
- Watts AW, Loth K, Berge JM, Larson N, Neumark-Sztainer D. No Time for Family Meals? Parenting Practices Associated with Adolescent Fruit and Vegetable Intake When Family Meals Are Not an Option. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 2016. doi:10.1016/j.jand.2016.10.026.
- Rapaport L. Getting kids to eat veggies when there’s no time for family meals. Reuters. http://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-teens-family-meals-idUSKBN14B25Q. Published December 22, 2016. Accessed January 14, 2017.