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Back to Symposium 2009

On the Menu—The Future of Family Meals

Mary Sue Waisman, MSc, PDt, FDC

Dietitian, Professional Chef, Nutrition Consultant and Cookbook Author: ALL ABOUT FOOD Nutrition Consulting, Halifax, Nova Scotia

While a fair amount of research has been conducted on the subject of family meals, it’s difficult to compare prevalence data. However, one thing we do know is that the benefits of family meals are difficult to overstate and that the long-term effects are substantial. Eating meals as a family during adolescence may have a positive influence on diet quality and patterns that persist into adulthood. The nutritional benefits for children, adolescents, and their parents are considerable, ranging from the consumption of more fruits, vegetables, grains and calcium-rich foods to a substantially lower intake of fried foods, soft drinks, and total and saturated fats. At least one study has shown that children who eat supper more frequently as a family at home are at decreased risk for overweight or obesity. Nutritional benefits are also demonstrated for older adults eating family style meals together with others in residential care settings. Various studies also indicate that family meals confer non-nutritional benefits as well, including decreased substance abuse, strengthened family relationships and greater communication.

Beyond delving into the importance of family meals, this presentation will also explore the benefits of preparing food at home (from cost control to nutrient control) and the state of domestic cooking skills and will look at how cooking at home has changed as a result of the abundance of convenience foods and our fast-paced, multitasking lifestyles. Lastly, we’ll take a glimpse into the future and discuss how tomorrow’s parents will go about getting a healthy meal on the table.

Other Presentation Summaries

  • G. Harvey Anderson, PhD

    Professor, Departments of Nutritional Sciences and Physiology; Director, Program in Food Safety, Nutrition and Regulatory Affairs, University of Toronto

  • Heidi Bates, BSc., RD

    Consulting dietitian, Tri-Nutrition Consulting; Instructor, Northern Alberta Institute of Technology; Director, Integrated Dietetic Internship, Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutritional Sciences, University of Alberta

  • Alejandro R. Jadad, MD, DPhil, FRCPC, FCAHS

    Chief Innovator and Founder, Centre for Global eHealth Innovation; Canada Research Chair in eHealth Innovation; Rose Family Chair in Supportive Care; Professor, Departments of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation, and Anesthesia; Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University Health Network and University of Toronto

  • Isabelle Neiderer, RD

    Director of Nutrition
    Dairy Farmers of Canada

  • Leslie Beck, RD

    Director of Nutrition, Medcan Clinic
    Weekly columnist, The Globe and Mail
    Nutrition expert, CTV Canada AM, CFRB Toronto radio and CJAD Montreal radio

  • Adam Drewnowski, PhD

    Professor, Epidemiology; Director, Center for Public Health Nutrition and Nutritional Sciences Program, University of Washington

  • Nathalie Jobin, PhD, RD

    Director, Nutrition and Scientific Affairs
    Nutrium, University of Montreal


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