When we were younger it was typical for us to eat at the table as a family. Around high school, we started to drift away from the tradition because more of us were working and we never knew who would be helping cook that night or how many people would be home for dinner. Now, we girls tend to have dinner in the living room, but for some families, having dinner in the living room or in front of the T.V. doesn’t encourage a social dinner atmosphere and these dinner habits can actually have negative health effects.

Research from Dr. Brian Wansink and Dr. Ellen van Kleef has suggested that eating in front of the T.V. can cause children and their parents to have a higher BMI. The study involved 190 parents and 148 children. The parents filled out a questionnaire about the family’s eating habits and answered a broad range of questions about what the family did during mealtimes. Some questions included what the family talked about during meals and how often they took their meals together at the table. After the questionnaire, both the children and their parents had their height and weight recorded in order to determine their BMI.

The research revealed a few different findings. In most cases, families that tended to eat their meals together at the dining room table had lower BMIs than families that ate their meals in front of the television. Also, families that ate breakfast had lower BMIs as well. Interestingly enough, girls that participated in making dinner with their mother or father had a higher BMI than usual, even if the family ate their meals together at the table. Boys were unaffected if they helped prepare dinner, but they did tend to have lower BMIs if they found mealtimes to be a positive social event.

The research team says that the link between BMI and these dinner-time habits does not necessarily mean that one thing leads directly to another, and an increase in BMI is not necessarily a bad thing since it was also seen in girls that help prepare dinner, which is a healthy and positive experience. At the end of the study, the researchers simple advised “if you want to strengthen your family ties and, at the same time keep a slimmer figure, consider engaging in a more interactive dinner experience.”

Source: Cornell Food & Brand Lab (2013, October 29). Dinner rituals correlate with child, adult weight. ScienceDaily.

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