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Nutr Res Pract. 2014 Dec;8(6):679-87. doi: 10.4162/nrp.2014.8.6.679. Epub 2014 Nov 20.

Eating habits and eating behaviors by family dinner frequency in the lower-grade elementary school students.

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Department of Food and Nutrition, Seoul Women's University, 621 Hwarangro, Nowon-gu, Seoul, 139-774, Korea.
Department of Food and Nutrition, Yeungnam University, Gyeongsan, 712-749, Korea.
Department of Food and Nutrition, Wonkwang University, Iksan, 570-749, Korea.
Department of Food and Nutrition, Myongji University, Yongin, 120-728, Korea.



Recently, there has been an increased interest in the importance of family meals on children's health and nutrition. This study aims to examine if the eating habits and eating behaviors of children are different according to the frequency of family dinners.


The subjects were third-grade students from 70 elementary schools in 17 cities nationwide. A two-stage stratified cluster sampling was employed. The survey questionnaire was composed of items that examined the general characteristics, family meals, eating habits, eating behaviors, and environmental influence on children's eating. The subjects responded to a self-reported questionnaire. Excluding the incomplete responses, the data (n = 3,435) were analyzed using χ(2)-test or t-test.


The group that had more frequent family dinners (≥ 5 days/week, 63.4%), compared to those that had less (≤ 4 days/week, 36.6%), showed better eating habits, such as eating meals regularly, performing desirable behaviors during meals, having breakfast frequently, having breakfast with family members (P < 0.001), and not eating only what he or she likes (P < 0.05). Those who had more frequent family dinners also consumed healthy foods with more frequency, including protein foods, dairy products, grains, vegetables, seaweeds (P < 0.001), and fruits (P < 0.01). However, unhealthy eating behaviors (e.g., eating fatty foods, salty foods, sweets, etc.) were not significantly different by the frequency of family dinners.


Having dinner frequently with family members was associated with more desirable eating habits and with healthy eating behaviors in young children. Thus nutrition education might be planned to promote family dinners, by emphasizing the benefits of having family meals on children's health and nutrition and making more opportunities for family meals.


eating behaviors; eating habits; family meals; school-aged children

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