Here's fresh scientific evidence that the family dining room may be the healthiest place in the house: New research shows families that eat meals together — without the television on — and stay seated until everyone is finished are more likely to have lower weights and body mass index (BMI) than those who don't.
The study,published by a Cornell behavioral economist in the October issue of the journal Obesity, suggests that there's more to combating the nation's obesity epidemic than merely encouraging people to eat less and move more.
"By focusing on family dining rituals, this research departs from the more food-centric approaches," said Brian Wansink, M.D., professor in Cornell's Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management and director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab. "Family meals and their rituals might be an underappreciated battleground to fight obesity."
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The study suggests strong, positive socialization skills developed during family dinners may supplant the need to overeat. And children aren't the only ones who benefit: Mothers and fathers who talk meaningfully with children, especially young boys, about their day during dinner also have lower BMIs, the researchers found.
By contrast, families that 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. "The ritual of where one eats and how long one eats seems to be the largest driver."
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