BMC Public Health (Dec 2019)

Child diet and health outcomes of the simple suppers program: a 10-week, 2-group quasi-experimental family meals trial

  • Carolyn Gunther,
  • Catherine Rogers,
  • Christopher Holloman,
  • Laura C. Hopkins,
  • Sarah E. Anderson,
  • Carla K. Miller,
  • Kristen A. Copeland,
  • Jamie S. Dollahite,
  • Keeley J. Pratt,
  • Alison Webster,
  • Allison N. Labyk,
  • Christine Penicka

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 19, no. 1
pp. 1 – 14


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Abstract Background Racial minority children, particularly from low-income households, are at risk for obesity. Family meals have a protective effect on child nutritional health. However, the current evidence is limited in racial and socioeconomic diversity. The objective of this study was to evaluate the impact of a family meals intervention, Simple Suppers, on improvements in diet and health outcomes from baseline (T0) to post-intervention (T1) in intervention compared to waitlist control participants, and determine retention of change in outcomes among intervention participants at 10-week follow-up (T2). Methods Simple Suppers was a 10-week family meals intervention implemented as a 2-group quasi-experimental trial. Ten 90-min lessons were delivered weekly. Data were collected at T0 and T1, and from intervention participants at T2. Participants were racially diverse 4–10 year-old children from low-income households. Setting was a faith-based community center. Main outcomes were daily servings of fruit, vegetables, and sugar-sweetened beverages and diet quality; z-scores for body mass index (BMI), waist circumference, systolic and diastolic blood pressure (BP); weight status categories; food preparation skills; and family meals (frequency of dinner, breakfast, TV viewing during meals, meals in dining area). Generalized linear mixed models (GLMMs) and mixed-effects ordinal regression models were used to assess intervention impact (T0:T1). Paired t-tests examined retention of change among intervention participants (T1:T2). Results One hundred forty children enrolled and 126 completed T1 (90% retention); 71 of 87 intervention participants completed T2(79% retention). Mean (SD) age was 6.9(1.9) yr, 62% female, 60% Black, and 42% low-income. Intervention vs waitlist controls had higher food preparation skills (p < 0.001) and lower TV viewing during meals (p = 0.04) at T1.There were no group differences in dietary intake or quality or z-scores for BMI, waist circumference, or BP, however intervention versus waitlist controls experienced a greater change toward healthy weight (p = 0.04) At T2, intervention participants demonstrated a retention of improved food preparation skills. Conclusions Simple Suppers led to improvements in children’s weight status, food preparation skills, and TV viewing during meals, but not diet or z-scores for BMI, waist circumference, or BP. Future research should examine the preventive effects of healthy family mealtime routines in children at greatest risk for obesity. Trial registration NCT02923050; Simple Suppers Scale-up (S3); Retrospectively registered on Oct 2016; First participant enrolled on Jan 2015.