Eating Dinner In Front of the TV Makes You Fat
A new report finds that turning off the television and sharing meals as a family sat around the dining table can make families healthier.
The dining environment itself is an influencer of weight, according to a recent study by Dr Brian Wansink, of Cornell University in the U.S. and Dr Ellen van Kleef of Wageningen University in the Netherlands.
The research examined the relationship between everyday family dinner rituals and the body mass index (BMI) of 190 parents and 148 children. The BMI is a measure of body fat that compares weight to height.
Parents participating in the study completed a questionnaire regarding the whole family’s mealtime habits.
They were asked a broad range of questions concerning how many days they engage in mealtime activities, such as discussing their day, during a typical week.
After filling in the questionnaire, the weight and height of both parents and children were recorded.
These ‘dinner rituals’ correlated with both the parents and the child’s BMIs.
The higher the BMI of parents, the more frequent they indicated to eat with the TV on.
Eating at the table in the dining room or kitchen was linked to lower BMIs for both children and parents.
Girls who helped parents prepare dinner were more likely to have a higher BMI, but there is no such relationship among boys.
Yet boys who had a more social dinner experience tended to have lower BMI, especially in families where everyone stayed at the table until everyone finished eating. This proved true in parents as well.
The link between BMI and these dinner-time habits does not necessarily mean that one thing leads directly to another.
The study said: ‘What is important, however, is that these results underline the importance of the social aspect of sharing a meal as a family on BMI, since watching television, for example, correlated with higher BMI in the parents. These interactions may replace overeating with stronger, more positive feelings.
‘Although the reasons for the links are not clear, family meals and their rituals may be an under-appreciated battleground to prevent obesity. Where one eats and how long one eats seems to be a driver of the weight one gains.
‘Such behavior may be related to less distracted eating or more supervision. 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.
‘A good place to start would be to eat together with the television off and then asking the kids to list their highlights of the day. After all, the dinner table does not just have to be a place where food gets eaten!’
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