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Could family breakfast give kids good body image?

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Eating breakfast as a family can help promote a positive body image for children and adolescents, a new study suggests.

“We know that developing healthy behaviors in adolescence such as eating breakfast every day and eating family meals can have long-term effects into adulthood,” says Virginia Ramseyer Winter, assistant professor in the School of Social Work and director of the Center for Body Image Research and Policy at the University of Missouri.

“Children and adolescents are under a lot of pressure from social media and pop culture when it comes to physical appearance. Having a healthy relationship with food from eating breakfast and spending meal time with family might have a significant impact on well-being.”

For the study, which appears in Social Work in Public Health, researchers analyzed data from more than 12,000 students in more than 300 schools in all 50 states and Washington, DC. They looked at data related to eating behaviors, including frequency of eating breakfast and eating meals with a parent.

The researchers found that eating breakfast during the week more frequently was associated with positive body image. Just over half of the sample reported eating breakfast five days a week; however, nearly 17 percent reported never eating breakfast. More than 30 percent reported eating breakfast fewer than five times a week. Also, boys ate breakfast more often than girls did.

Additionally, children were much more likely to have a positive body image if they regularly ate breakfast with a parent.

“We know that the health behaviors of a parent can have long-term effects on a child,” Ramseyer Winter says. “Results of this study suggest that positive interactions with food—such as eating breakfast and having family meals together—could be associated with body image.”

Additional researchers from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville and Washburn University contributed to the study.

Source: University of Missouri