Updated 02 September 2014

Family meals help kids stay lean

Research found that children in families who eat together and stay seated until everyone is finished have lower weight and body-mass index.


Kids are less likely to be overweight if they eat meals with their families, according to a new study.

The research found that children in families who eat together without the television on and stay seated until everyone is finished have lower weight and body-mass index (BMI), a measurement of body fat based on height and weight.

The researchers compared BMIs and family dining rituals of 190 parents and 148 children.

Strong, positive socialisation skills during family dinners may override children's need to overeat, the researchers said. They also found that parents who talk meaningfully with children, especially young boys, about their day during dinner also have lower BMIs.

"Eating anywhere other than the kitchen or dining room was related to higher BMIs in both parents and in children," study co-author Brian Wansink, a professor in Cornell University's School of Applied Economics and Management, said in a university news release.

"The ritual of where one eats and how long one eats seems to be the largest driver [of obesity]," he said.

The researchers said, however, that the link between BMI and dinnertime habits does not necessarily mean that one thing directly causes the other.

"By focusing on family dining rituals, this research departs from the more food-centric approaches," said Wansink, director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab. "Family meals and their rituals might be an underappreciated battleground to fight obesity."

The study appeared in the journal Obesity.

More information

The Nemours Foundation has more about children's weight.

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