OBJECTIVE: Family meals are associated with a healthier diet among children and adolescents, but how family meal frequency varies in the U.S. population overall by household food availability and sociodemographic characteristics is not well characterized.
DESIGN: The U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2007-2010 assessed the frequency of family meals eaten at home in the past week and the household availability of fruits, dark green vegetables, salty snacks, and sugar-sweetened beverages.
SETTING: Computer-assisted face-to-face interviews with a selected adult (≥18 years) who owned or rented the home (i.e., the household reference person).
SUBJECTS: We analyzed information on family meal frequency for 18,031 participants living in multi-person households in relation to sociodemographic characteristics and food availability.
RESULTS: Among the U.S. population living in households of two or more individuals, the prevalence (95% confidence interval) of having 0-2, 3-6 and ≥7 family meals/week was 18.0% (16.6-19.3), 32.4% (31.0-33.9), and 49.6% (47.8-51.4), respectively. Greater household availability of fruits and dark green vegetables and less availability of salty snacks and sugar-sweetened beverages was associated with more frequent family meals. Family meals were more prevalent in low-income households and those in which the reference person was ≥65 years, married, or had less than high school education.
CONCLUSIONS: About half of the US population living in households of 2 or more people shares meals frequently with their family at home. Family meal frequency was positively associated with a healthier pattern of household food availability.