Families who eat together share quality time together. But a new study suggests that family mealtimes might also help children establish healthy eating habits they take into adulthood.

Researchers from the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health in Minneapolis surveyed 303 male and 374 female public middle school students about their family eating habits. Five years later, the former high schoolers completed another survey on the same topic. Data showed that during early adolescence 60 percent of students regularly ate with most family members for five or more meals each week; during middle adolescence that number dropped by half, with only 30 percent sitting down to family meals.

Researchers found that regular family meals translated into children having a better quality diet—it increased their intake of vegetables, calcium-rich food, dietary fiber and nutrients such as calcium, iron and zinc.

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