Want a healthier dinnertime? Science says change your eating space

How and where you eat matters. From your plate size to your table, these expert-approved tips will help you navigate dinnertime like a seasoned pro.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Have you ever considered how your eating environment impacts your health? Scientists have.

As it turns out, where and how people eat plays a big role in weight, nutrition and overall health. So whether you're dining solo or serving the whole family, these research-backed dinnertime hacks can help revamp your eating environment to keep you and your family healthy.

  1. Keep your dining space clutter-free — Is your dining room or kitchen table doubling as your mailroom or classroom? Clutter is distracting and can make it difficult to concentrate. One study in particular showed that distraction while eating increased how much participants snacked later on. By making time to organize or redecorate your dining space, you'll be more inclined to use (and enjoy) it.
  2. Grab a seat at the table — According to experts, dinner is for the table, not the couch. Staying seated at the table helps improve eating posture, reduces distraction and enhances focus throughout the meal. One study even found that eating at the dinner table was correlated with a healthier overall weight.
  3. Serve from the kitchen — When a serving bowl of spaghetti or a plate of bread remains on the table, it can be all too tempting to reach for seconds. Instead, keep food out of sight on the stovetop or kitchen counter. You'll have to think twice (or three times) before standing up and going for seconds, which might be all you need to decide if you're still hungry.
  4. Opt for smaller plates and glasses — The eye can be deceiving. It's human nature to fill the space on a plate with food. So if you grab a large plate, you're probably dishing up larger portions than you need. Instead, reach for a smaller plate or glass.
  5. Make mealtime screen-free — Important advice for children and adults alike: Turn off the TV and power down your smartphone. Going tech-free reduces distractions and gives you an opportunity to focus on what you're doing — eating. You'll be able to better listen to your hunger and fullness cues, which can help you avoid overeating.
  6. Let dinnertime be an opportunity for bonding — Whether you're eating with friends or family, meaningful connections matter. Research shows that children who have regular family meals perform better at school and have lower rates of anxiety and depression.

Healthy eating is about more than food — it's about environment, too. So before the clock strikes dinnertime, consider your eating space. Revamping your routine and environment might be the key to helping you and your family eat, and enjoy, a healthy dinner around the table together.

April 24, 2019 See more In-depth

See also

  1. MIND diet may cut Alzheimer's risk
  2. 3 diet changes women over 50 should make right now
  3. 3 key changes in the new Nutrition Facts label
  4. Healthy-eating habits
  5. Reduce sugar in your diet
  6. Acai berries
  7. Added sugar
  8. Alcohol use
  9. Alkaline water
  10. Are energy drinks bull?
  11. Artificial sweeteners and other sugar substitutes
  12. Autism spectrum disorder and digestive symptoms
  13. Bad food habits at work? Get back on track in 5 easy steps
  14. Best oil for cooking?
  15. 2015-2020 Dietary guidelines
  16. Boost your calcium levels without dairy? Yes you can!
  17. Breast-feeding nutrition: Tips for moms
  18. Caffeine: How much is too much?
  19. Is caffeine dehydrating?
  20. Calorie calculator
  21. The role of diet and exercise in preventing Alzheimer's disease
  22. Can whole-grain foods lower blood pressure?
  23. Carbohydrates
  24. Chart of high-fiber foods
  25. Cholesterol: Top foods to improve your numbers
  26. Coconut water: Healthy drink or marketing scam?
  27. Coffee and health
  28. Diet and overactive bladder
  29. Diet soda: How much is too much?
  30. Dietary fats
  31. Dietary fiber
  32. Prickly pear cactus
  33. Does soy affect breast cancer risk?
  34. Don't get tricked by these 3 heart-health myths
  35. Don't go cuckoo for coconut water
  36. Make healthy snack choices
  37. Eat more of these key nutrients
  38. Eggs: Bad for cholesterol?
  39. Energy drinks
  40. Fat grams
  41. For a healthy gut, feed the good bugs
  42. Fiber: Soluble or insoluble?
  43. Fish and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)
  44. Fit more fiber into your diet
  45. Foods for healthy skin
  46. Grape juice health benefits
  47. Is chocolate healthy?
  48. Healthy heart for life: Avoiding heart disease
  49. Healthy-eating tip: Don't forget fiber
  50. High-fructose corn syrup
  51. High-protein diets
  52. Alcohol during the holidays: 4 ways to sip smarter
  53. Holiday weight: How to maintain, not gain
  54. Takeout containers
  55. Is there more to hydration than water?
  56. Juicing is no substitute for whole foods
  57. Juicing
  58. Depression and diet
  59. Limit bad fats, one step at a time
  60. Make food labels required reading
  61. Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
  62. MUFAs
  63. Multigrain vs. whole grain
  64. Need a snack? Go nuts!
  65. Need more fiber? Take 3 steps
  66. Nutrition Facts label
  67. Nutrition rules that will fuel your workout
  68. Nuts and your heart: Eating nuts for heart health
  69. Omega-3 in fish
  70. Omega-6 fatty acids
  71. Phenylalanine
  72. Play it safe when taking food to a loved one in the hospital
  73. Protein: Heart-healthy sources
  74. Healthy eating plans
  75. Raw water: Risky fad?
  76. Reduce sugar in your diet
  77. Health foods
  78. Portion control
  79. Planning healthy meals
  80. High-fiber diet
  81. Social eating can be healthy and enjoyable
  82. Sodium
  83. Sodium: Look beyond the saltshaker
  84. Stevia
  85. Tap water or bottled water: Which is better?
  86. Taurine in energy drinks
  87. Time to cut back on caffeine?
  88. Time to scale back on salt?
  89. Trans fat
  90. Underweight: Add pounds healthfully
  91. Daily water requirement
  92. Functional foods
  93. What is a good ileostomy diet?
  94. What is clean eating?
  95. What's considered moderate alcohol use?
  96. What's the difference between juicing and blending?
  97. Why does diet matter after bariatric surgery?
  98. Working out? Remember to drink up
  99. Yerba mate