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Regular Family Dinners Help Prevent Childhood Eating Disorders

This week I posted two pieces on Babble at The Family Kitchen about how healthy family eating relates to our children’s health.

The first, “Can Healthy Eating Help Fight the Growing Eating Disorder Problem Among Young Kids?” is a reaction to the apparent rise of eating disorders among young people. Really young people. Dr. David Rosen, an eating disorder expert and professor of adolescent medicine, wrote a piece in last weekend’s LA Times in which he explained, “In 2009, the government published data that showed that kids under 12 were the fastest-growing population of patients hospitalized for eating disorders.”

The second post, “How Family Dinner Makes Your Kids Healthier” reported research showing that kids who eat regular meals with their families do better. Just better, as in overall. The data, shared in a recent Huffington Post article, specifically references eating disorders:

“They [children who share regular meals with parents] are 42 percent less likely to drink, 50 percent less likely to smoke and 66 percent less like to smoke marijuana. Regular family dinners protect girls from bulimia, anorexia, and diet pills. Family dinners also reduce the incidence of childhood obesity. In a study on household routines and obesity in U.S. preschool-aged children, it was shown that kids as young as four have a lower risk of obesity if they eat regular family dinners, have enough sleep, and don’t watch TV on weekdays.”

Organizing family dinner can be a serious challenge, especially if, like me, your kids are still young and eat dinner early. And then there’s the matter of the grownups in a family trying to stay connected. I imagine that being a healthy, happy couple is just as important to our children, and that means eating dinner without them sometimes. But I’d bet that the family dinner in this research is an indicator of something more. Maybe healthier meals? A family connected? Opportunities for kids and their grownups to reach out to each other?

My guess is that if these things are in place, plus a handful of regular family meals—whether breakfast, dinner, dessert or tea time—our children reap the benefits. Throw healthy foods into the mix and a joyous attitude towards all whole foods in moderation (that’s right, folks, let’s not send messages like we need processed diet foods to enjoy a cookie every once and a while!) and I’d say we’re doing what we can to help our kids develop a healthy attitude towards food.

Of course, there are other factors: genetics, a psychological component and more, I’m sure. But isn’t that the case with all parenting? There’s only so much we can control and influence. The rest is up to, well, I’m not sure who, but I know it ain’t all completely me.

Do you believe that the way you feed yourself and your family has a significant impact on your children’s health?

* Can Healthy Eating Help Fight the Growing Eating Disorder Problem Among Young Kids?

* How Family Dinner Makes Your Kids Healthier


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