Family meals and their rituals might be an underappreciated battleground for fighting obesity, say Cornell professor Brian Wansink, PhD, and coauthor Ellen Van Kleef, assistant professor at Wageningen University, The Netherlands. Their study appeared online in Obesity on October 1, 2013.
The research showed that families who eat together without the television on and stay seated until everyone is finished have children with lower weights and body mass indexes. Strong, positive socialization skills during dinner possibly supplant the need to overeat, the researchers explained. Mothers and fathers who talk meaningfully with children, especially young boys, 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 Wansink, professor in Cornell’s Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management and director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab. But families who eat while watching television can turn chubby, 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, in a Cornell press release.