Healthy eating index-C is positively associated with family dinner frequency among students in grades 6–8 from Southern Ontario, Canada

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Background/Objectives:Unhealthy eating behaviours may contribute to the rising prevalence of childhood obesity in Canada. The purpose of this study was to describe family dinner frequency (FDF) and its associations with overall diet quality. Subjects/Methods: The sample included grades six (n=372), seven (n=429) and eight (n=487) students from Southern Ontario. Data were collected with the Food Behaviour Questionnaire, including a single 24-h dietary recall and questions about individual meals. Diet quality was calculated using the Healthy Eating Index-C (HEI-C), which is a recently modified diet quality index.Results:The majority of participants (65%) reported frequent family dinner meals (6–7 days/week versus 20% on 3–5 days/week and 15% on 0–2 days/week). Diet quality scores were higher among participants reporting 6–7 dinners/week (HEI-C=66.2 versus 62.1 and 62.8 for 0–2 and 3–5 days/week, respectively, P<0.001). Adjusted models reported that diet quality scores were also associated with whom participants consumed breakfast (P<0.001), lunch (P<0.001) and dinner (P<0.001), yet they were most strongly associated (negatively) with participants who skipped the meal altogether.Conclusions:Increased family dinner meals were positively associated with daily diet quality and negatively associated with breakfast and lunch skipping. Promoting family dinner meals in healthy living intervention strategies is advised.

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