Associations between Family Meal Context and Diet Quality among Preschool-Aged Children in the Guelph Family Health Study

Publication: Canadian Journal of Dietetic Practice and Research
12 September 2019


Purpose: To explore the associations between family meal context and overall diet quality of Canadian preschool-aged children.
Methods: Cross-sectional analysis of 95 preschool-aged children from 72 families. Measures about health behaviours and the family meal environment were drawn from selected questionnaire items. Three-day food records for children were assessed using the Healthy Eating Index 2010 (HEI-2010). Linear regression was used to explore the associations between the family meal variables and children’s HEI-2010 scores.
Results: In analyses adjusted for child age, sex, and household income, child involvement in meal preparation (β = 4.34; 95% CI: 0.56–8.12) and time spent preparing the evening meal (β = 3.77; 95% CI: 0.42–7.12) were associated with higher HEI-2010 scores. Serving fast food (β = −2.90; 95% CI: −4.79 to −1.02) and using screen-based devices during meals (β = −3.80; 95% CI: −7.38 to −0.21) were associated with lower HEI-2010 scores. Family meal frequency and serving prepared foods, sugar-sweetened beverages, and vegetables at meals were not significantly associated with preschoolers’ diet quality.
Conclusions: The context in which family meals take place influences child diet quality. Taking the time to include children in family meal preparation may benefit children’s dietary intake.


Objectif. Explorer les associations entre le contexte des repas en famille et la qualité de l’alimentation globale des enfants canadiens d’âge préscolaire.
Méthodes. Analyse transversale de 95 enfants d’âge préscolaire issus de 72 familles. Des mesures concernant les comportements liés à la santé et l’environnement des repas en famille ont été tirées d’éléments sélectionnés d’un questionnaire. Le journal alimentaire sur trois jours des enfants a été évalué au moyen de l’indice de saine alimentation 2010 (ISA-2010). Une régression linéaire a été utilisée pour explorer les associations entre les variables des repas en famille et les scores de l’ISA-2010 des enfants.
Résultats. Dans les analyses ajustées selon l’âge et le sexe des enfants et le revenu du ménage, la participation des enfants à la préparation des repas (β = 4,34; IC à 95 % : 0,56–8,12) et le temps passé à préparer le repas du soir (β = 3,77; IC à 95 % : 0,42–7,12) étaient associés à des scores ISA-2010 plus élevés. Les repas-minute (β = −2,90; IC à 95 % : −4,79 à −1,02) et l’utilisation d’appareils à écran durant les repas (β = −3,80; IC à 95 % : −7,38 à −0,21) étaient associés à des scores ISA-2010 plus faibles. La fréquence des repas pris en famille et le fait de servir des aliments préparés, des boissons sucrées et des légumes lors des repas n’étaient pas associés de manière significative à la qualité de l’alimentation des enfants d’âge préscolaire.
Conclusions. Le contexte dans lequel les repas familiaux sont pris influence la qualité de l’alimentation des enfants. Prendre le temps d’inclure les enfants dans la préparation des repas familiaux peut avoir des bienfaits sur l’apport alimentaire des enfants.

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Sources of financial support: The Guelph Family Health Study—Pilot Study was funded by the Health for Life Initiative—University of Guelph.
Conflicts of interest: The authors declare that they have no competing interests.


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Information & Authors


Published In

cover image Canadian Journal of Dietetic Practice and Research
Canadian Journal of Dietetic Practice and Research
Volume 81Number 1March 2020
Pages: 21 - 27


Version of record online: 12 September 2019



Sarah Wedde BASc
Department of Family Relations and Applied Nutrition, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON
Jess Haines PhD
Department of Family Relations and Applied Nutrition, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON
David Ma PhD
Department of Human Health and Nutritional Sciences, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON
Alison Duncan PhD
Department of Human Health and Nutritional Sciences, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON
Gerarda Darlington PhD
Department of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON

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