The term “dining” implies a meal is more than just about the experience of eating; the atmosphere and social environment are equally important to the enjoyment of the meal. Family can be as essential to a family dinner as eating is! A new study shows us ways in which the family dining experience can contribute to healthy lives for children and adults. The research looked at several dining rituals to see if any are related to weight status. Rather than focusing on the healthfulness of the food, researchers looked at elements of family dining environments, for example, do they eat together? Do they sit at the table? Is the TV turned off? Questions like these, combined with measurements of participants Body Mass Index (BMI), allowed the researchers to detect patterns between dining rituals and BMI.
In total, 190 parents and 148 children from the Chicago Metro area participated in the study. All children were enrolled in 3rd to 6th grade. While their children watched TV programs in another room, parents filled out a questionnaire about their family’s regular mealtime habits. The questions asked about the occurrence and frequency of several common mealtime rituals. After the questionnaire was completed researchers collected all parent’s and children’s height and weight to calculate BMI.
Researchers found that in fact, many regular family dining behaviors are related to children and adult weight status!
This research did not delve into why these habits are related to BMI but they do provide a strong foundation by identifying positive and negative elements of family eating environments and behavior. Based on these findings researchers recommend that families:
Wansink, B., & Van Kleef, E. (2013). “Dinner Rituals that Correlate with Child and Adult BMI.”