Here’s another reason to encourage eating meals together as a family: your teenagers will have a lower risk of developing any type of disordered eating behavior.

For a period of 5 years, researchers examined adolescent boys and girls and the frequency with which their families ate together. The aim was to track the connection between family meals and all degrees of disordered eating. The behaviors ranged from merely unhealthy ones, such as occasionally skipping meals to lose weight, to much more dangerous ones, including frequent use of laxatives and diet pills.

Among the adolescent girls, the researchers found that regular family meals were associated with a lower prevalence of extreme weight control behaviors. To a smaller degree, eating together also positively protected the girls against less extreme behaviors. Among adolescent boys, eating together did not result in lower levels of disordered eating, but the researchers said that more studies were warranted to determine if there was any association.

“The high prevalence of disordered eating behaviors among adolescent girls and the protective role of family meals suggest a need for interventions aimed at promoting family meals,” the authors concluded in the January issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. Help sound the bell, and strongly encourage more family meals among your clients, friends and own family members!