Fight Obesity with Family Dinner

Does your family eat dinner together? And if you do, is everyone distracted by phones, tablets, handheld games or the television?

When I was growing up, every dinner was family dinner. My mother always prepared a home-cooked meal, and everyone (only 4 in total) sat around the table as a family. At that time, there were no cell phones or other hand-held devices. And in our house, there was only one television in the living room, which couldn’t be seen from the kitchen.

In today’s world, this is not so common. Families tend to be busier – members are arriving home late, rushing off to appointments or activities, or they are at the table, but distracted by the television or handheld devices.

A recent US study looked at the relationship between home-cooked dinners, watching television while eating, and obesity. The results suggest that making home-cooked dinners and switching off the television while eating could help fight obesity.

There were 12,842 study participants – all of whom said that they had eaten at least one family meal in the week prior to their interview. One third of the study participants were considered obese – with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more.

The researchers found that:

  • adults who reported that they never watched television or videos during family meals had a significantly lower chance of obesity compared to those who always watched television or videos during meals
  • adults who ate home-cooked family meals had lower odds of obesity than those who ate some or no home-cooked meals; however, the frequency of family meals – from most days to just a few days per week – did not make much of a difference to obesity risk
  • adults who did both healthy practices – ate home-cooked meals and ate without watching television or videos, every time they ate a family meal – had the lowest odds of obesity

Even if you can’t have family dinner every day, doing so on a regular basis may help fight obesity. And more importantly, turn off the television and other distractions and ‘be present’ at the meal.

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