Study co-authors Jennifer Martin-Biggers, Amanda Berhaupt-Glickstein, John Worobey and Carol Byrd-Bredbenner, all from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, said aside from negative effects on the family budget, eating out has been shown to be generally associated with poor food choices and bad health.
The researchers evaluated results from 68 previously published scientific reports considering the association between family mealtime and children's health.
The review found numerous benefits to children associated with having frequent family meals, including increased intake of fruits, vegetables, fiber, calcium-rich foods and vitamins. In addition, the more a family ate together the less children consumed dietary components thought to be harmful to health such as soda.
The researchers found a weak link between family meals and obesity risk, but children in families with frequent family meals tended to have lower body mass index than those who enjoyed fewer family meals.
The findings were presented at the American Society for Nutrition's scientific sessions in San Diego.