Previous research has demonstrated that family members’ eating habits are similar. We hypothesized that family members’ eating habits would be predicted by the eating habits of the person who prepares the majority of the family’s meals and the number of meals the family shares. Participants were 282 members of religious organizations who identified themselves as family food preparers (FFPs), and provided information about their own and their family members’ eating habits. Results revealed that FFP fruit and vegetable intake predicted the fruit and vegetable intake of spouses, children, and adolescents (p < 0.01), and that FFP consumption of high-fat foods predicted the consumption of high-fat foods of spouses and children ( p < 0.01). Child fruit and vegetable consumption was also influenced by shared meals: the more meals the child shared with the FFP, the stronger the relationship of FFP fruit and vegetable intake with child fruit and vegetable intake ( p < 0.05). These findings indicate that dietary interventions targeting the FFP may benefit other family members.

Introduction

Current research has shown that people in all age groups are not meeting the national dietary guidelines of consum- ing five or more servings of fruit and vegetables per day and reducing fat to less than 30% of total energy intake (Department of Health and Human Services, 2000). In one study, only 9% of an adult sample consumed five or more servings of fruit and vegetables per day (Neumark-Sztainer et al., 1996). Research conducted with children has shown that most children exceed recommended levels of fat (Johnson et al., 1994) and approximately one-third con- sumes fruits and vegetables less than daily (Neumark-Sz- tainer et al., 1996). In this paper, we explore how consumption of high-fat foods and fruit and vegetable intake vary by families. Specifically, we examine the role of the family food preparer (FFP) in determining the consumption of high-fat foods and the fruit and vegetable intake of other family members.