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.

Oct. 25, 2018 See more In-depth