My thoughts after reading "A Review of Family Meal Influence on Adolescents' Dietary Intake" by Sarah Woodruff and Rhona Hanning:
It's pretty easy to imagine why having dinner with one's family would instill positive nutritional habits. Even the word family exudes in its meaning what goes further to credit an environment of caring and, above all, nurturing.
When mother and father are at the table, they are naturally given to see to it that their children are eating well. At the same time, they must also set the right example. Thus, it's clear why the authors of the article found that the studies reviewed found that those adolescents who ate with their families had a higher intake dairy, fruits and vegetables.
I would further suggest that family influence comes with wisdom as to healthy eating pattens. For example, when grandma or grandpa or mom or dad make a meal, they themselves are passing on food traidtions that may have well sustained generations with better health. When family is not available and adolescents are left to choose their own eating patterns, one could imagine they're much more inclined to make poorer choices as they have to "reinvent the wheel" so to say.
One element I would have liked to have seen the article address with more detail was actual preapartion of food. It's my own experience that a personal relationship with food can go a long way in how nutritious it is to a person. You might call it a greater food consciousness--more understanding of what's about to be eaten. Food consciousness is often lost on teens when going out to eat or when leaning on the microwave meals. When a teen prepares his or her own food, just the creativity itself involved by choice and cooking is likely to play a factor in actual nutrition.