Family Meal Frequency, Diet, and Family Functioning: A Systematic Review With Meta-analyses

J Nutr Educ Behav. 2020 May;52(5):553-564. doi: 10.1016/j.jneb.2019.12.012. Epub 2020 Jan 23.


Objective: To examine the direction and magnitude of the relation between family meal frequency and dietary and family functioning outcomes in children (aged 2-18 years).

Design: Systematic literature review with meta-analysis.

Methods: Independent electronic searches, 1 for each outcome of interest, were conducted across 5 databases: PubMed, Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature, Web of Science, Scopus, and PsycINFO. Studies were included if they were peer-reviewed and published in English in the US through December 2018.

Main outcome measures: Diet and family functioning.

Results: Dietary outcomes showed some evidence of a positive association between family meal frequency and fruits, vegetables, fruits and vegetables, sugar-sweetened beverages, and the Healthy Eating Index. There was less clear evidence of this relation in snacks, fast food, and desserts. A positive association was found between family meal frequency or dinner family meal frequency and family functioning outcomes. All studies included had cross-sectional and longitudinal study designs.

Conclusions and implications: There is some evidence to show a positive relation between family meal frequency and dietary outcomes. There is stronger evidence for the relation with family functioning outcomes. Most articles included in the systematic reviews were excluded from meta-analysis owing to inadequate data and high methodological diversity across exposure and outcome variables.

Keywords: diet outcomes; dinner family meal; eating behavior; family functioning; family meal frequency.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diet / statistics & numerical data*
  • Diet, Healthy / statistics & numerical data
  • Family*
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Meals*