Is there something special about family meals? Exploring how family meal habits relate to young children's diets
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Some 35% of teenagers in Scotland are overweight or obese, more than anywhere else in Europe (IASO data for 2012). This points to an urgent need to improve children’s diets. Child nutrition policy in Scotland has primarily focused on infants (Scottish Government, 2011) or on school-aged children (Scottish Government, 2008). Policy recommendations regarding the nutrition of toddlers (2-5 years) are much less developed. Also, existing recommendations on food consumption limits (e.g. 2 grams of salt for children up to 3 years old) and food consumption targets (e.g. 5-a-day for children aged 5 and over) do not necessarily reflect the ways parents and families think of food. Research suggests that preparing family meals encourages better diets in children, and may be a good way to address and improve the nutrition of toddlers. This briefing outlines some key findings of a research project which explored this by asking if and why family meals promote better eating habits in children under 5 years of age.