Diet and Health Benefits Associated with In-Home Eating and Sharing Meals at Home: A Systematic Review

Karen Glanz, Jessica J. Metcalfe, Sara C. Folta, Alison Brown, Barbara Fiese

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


In-home and shared meals have been hypothesized to have positive effects. This narrative review examines research on the influence of in-home eating on diet quality, health outcomes, and family relationships. A combination search approach included a search of PubMed, backward searches of previous published reviews, and studies the authors were familiar with. A search identified 118 publications; 54 original studies and 11 review studies were included in this review. Each study was reviewed and summarized. The diverse designs precluded quantitative data synthesis. Relatively strong evidence from cross-sectional research supports the association of shared family meals with favorable dietary patterns in children and adolescents, including consumption of fruits, vegetables, and healthful nutrients. Correlational evidence links shared meals with health and psychosocial outcomes in youth, including less obesity, decreased risk for eating disorders, and academic achievement. Most evidence is cross-sectional, thus, limiting attribution of causality. There is insufficient evidence to conclude that interventions improve the frequency of shared meals, improve diet, or prevent child obesity. Despite the “common wisdom”, the evidence that in-home, shared meals, per se, have positive effects on diet quality, health outcomes, psychosocial outcomes, and family relationships is limited due to weak research designs and single-item measurement of the independent variable. More research, with stronger designs, is warranted.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1577
Pages (from-to)1-20
Number of pages20
JournalInternational journal of environmental research and public health
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 2 2021


  • in-home eating
  • home meals
  • family mealtimes
  • healthy diets
  • shared meals
  • Healthy diets
  • Family mealtimes
  • Shared meals
  • Home meals
  • In-home eating

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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