You’ve likely heard that sharing meals as a family can have health benefits. For example, children might eat higher quality food, improve their weight control and be less likely to engage in risk-taking behaviors. Adults might benefit as well, although the research on weight control effects shows mixed results.
But if your family meals include fast food or take out and the use of screens, you might be losing out on any weight control benefits.
A recent study looked at over 12,000 adults who lived with at least one family member and ate at least one family meal at home, as well as whether those family meals were home cooked and if TV shows or videos were watched during the meal. Watching fewer TV shows or videos during family meals and eating more home-cooked family meals were each associated with a lower risk of obesity.
In fact, adults who never watched screens during family meals were 37 percent less likely to be obese. Eating family meals cooked at home lowered the odds of being obese by 26 percent. Putting factors together, adults who never watched TV or videos while eating and whose family meals had all been cooked at home had almost a 50 percent lower risk of obesity.
How can you use this information? Cook a healthy meal at home. Eat dinner with someone. Turn off the screens. It might not be possible every day, but the more you follow these practices, the bigger the possible health benefits.
March 15, 2017
- Tumin R, et al. Television, home-cooked meals, and family meal frequency. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. In press. Accessed March 13, 2017.