Here's news you'll want to share with your clients who have kids: Beyond reducing plate size and counting calories, there may be another strategy for keeping the family at a healthy weight: eating together at the dinner table. Families who eat together without the television on and stay seated until everyone has finished have children with lower weights and lower body mass indexes (BMIs) than those who don’t, reports a Cornell behavioral economist in the October issue of Obesity. The association is especially pronounced for boys.
Strong, positive socialization skills during dinners possibly supplant the need to overeat, the researchers explain. Mothers and fathers who talk meaningfully with children about their day during dinner also have lower BMIs.
"The ritual of where one eats and how long one eats seems to be the largest driver," said Brian Wansink, professor in Cornell's Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management and director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab. He co-authored the study with Ellen Van Kleef, assistant professor at Wageningen University, The Netherlands.
Families who eat while watching television can be heavier, the researchers noted. "In fact, eating anywhere other than the kitchen or dining room was related to higher BMIs in both parents and in children," said Wansink.
"By focusing on family dining rituals, this research departs from the more food-centric approaches," said Wansink." Family meals and their rituals might be an underappreciated battleground to fight obesity."