Families That Eat Dinner Together, Stay Slim Together, Study Finds

Filed under: In The News, Mealtime, Family Time

family dinner

Kids who ate meals regularly with their family were 24 percent more apt to eat healthy. Credit: Getty Images

Taking time to sit down and eat as a family at dinner could help keep your children at healthy weights.

A new study published today in Pediatrics, finds kids who ate meals regularly with their family were 24 percent more likely to eat healthy, compared with peers who seldom ate with relatives, according to HealthDay.

"We wanted to look at the family's contribution to positive outcomes as it relates to nutrition," study lead author Amber Hammons, a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, tells the news service. "It's important for parents to know what they can do, especially with obesity and eating habits; they want to know what role they can play."

Researchers looked at studies involving nearly 183,000 kids and teens ranging in age from about 3 to 17, HealthDay reports, examining eating habits, weight and whether they engaged in any eating disorder behavior.

They found children who ate three or more family meals a week were 12 percent less likely to be overweight than those who ate with their families rarely or never, according to the news service, which adds they were also 20 percent less likely to eat sweets, fried foods, soda and other food lacking in the healthy department.

Eating with Mom and Dad also reduced "disordered eating behaviors" -- think binging and purging, skipping meals, taking diet pills or laxatives and smoking -- HealthDay reports.

"We know that meals prepared at home are more likely to be less calorie-dense," Hammons tells the news service, but she adds that communication during a family meal could also influence healthy eating. "The future direction for research will not be looking at quantity of meals but at what is making meal time so important."

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.