A study, called “Project Eat,” recently conducted by the University of Minnesota has found that adolescents benefit from family meals in many aspects. Family meals provide routine, consistency, and lessons in communication skills, manners, nutrition and good eating habits says Maria Eisenberg from the school of Public Health. Eisenberg and colleagues examined data from a survey of 4,746 middle and high school students during the 1998-99 school year in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota. Surveys included the student’s feelings on well-being, drug and alcohol abuse, depression, lifestyle choices and how often they ate meals with their families. Of the students surveyed 26.8 % reported eating 7 or more meals with their families within the previous week and 33.1 % ate with their families only 1-2 times per week or never. Eisenberg confirmed that those kids that had more family meals together were less likely to use tobacco, alcohol and marijuana. They had higher grade point averages. Those who had more family meals were also less depressed and less likely to think about suicide or make suicidal attempts. Eisenberg states, “the likely reason for this benefit is the family meal serves as a formal or informal ‘check in’ time when parents can find out what is happening in their children’s lives…”

To find out more about this study read the August issue of the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. To learn more about Project EAT visit www.epi.umn.edu.