New research shows portion size awareness, sugary beverage intake improve after family meal program
A family meal-focused program has been shown to reduce the amount of sugary drinks that kids consume and gives parents more confidence in determining portion sizes, according to a recent study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The findings have implications for curbing childhood obesity rates, which have more than tripled since the 1970s.
The HOME Plus study, led by Jayne Fulkerson of the University of Minnesota School of Nursing, is the first randomized controlled trial to test a family meals-focused program designed to prevent excess weight gain.
“Being aware of and eating appropriate portion sizes, and moderating sugar-sweetened beverage consumption are important for weight management, so these findings can help inform future obesity prevention efforts with school-age children and their parents,” Fulkerson said.
One hundred sixty children, ages 8 to 12, and their parents or guardians participated in the study. Researchers surveyed parents and measured child body mass index at the beginning and end of the program, as well as nine months after the conclusion of the program. Families assigned to the HOME Plus program participated in 10 monthly family group sessions and five goal-setting phone calls. Families assigned to the control group received only a nutrition newsletter highlighting healthy family habits.
The parents who participated in the family group sessions reported greater self-efficacy in their ability to identify appropriate portion sizes for themselves and their children, better understanding of serving sizes versus portion sizes and more confidence in estimating recommended serving sizes for various foods. In addition, children who participated in the sessions were less likely to consume sugar-sweetened beverages than those who did not participate in the sessions.
"Parents need to feel empowered to make healthy decisions for their families and this program helps them do that," she said.
The study was funded by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Kidney Disease, a division within the National Institutes of Health.
University of Minnesota School of Nursing
The University of Minnesota School of Nursing is ranked among the nation’s top nursing schools. It is a leader in nursing research and has a combined undergraduate and graduate enrollment of approximately 850 students. The school produces 55 percent of the faculty in Minnesota’s public and private nursing schools, advanced practice nurses and nurses who can assume leadership positions. It is the oldest continuously-operated, university-based school of nursing. The School of Nursing is one of six schools and colleges in the Academic Health Center, one of the most comprehensive facilities for health professionals in the nation, fostering interdisciplinary study, research and education. For more information, visit www.nursing.umn.edu.