Young Family Enjoying Meal At Home

Are your dinner habits affecting your health?

How many of us flip on the television at dinner time to catch the news? After a day’s work, all you want to do is watch your favourite show. And if you’re not in the mood to cook then it’s just easier grab a pre-cooked meal and serve it up to the family. Having a family meal with the telly on has become the norm and with so many pre-cooked options available it is almost easy to get away without cooking.

But these habits might not be doing you any good – not only for your family life but mainly for your health.

New research shows that adults who watch TV during family meals and those who did not eat home-cooked meals or ate just some home-cooked meals were more likely to be obese.

Obesity was found to be as common in adults who ate family meals one or two days a week as in those who ate family meals every day.

The frequency of family meals however, did not seem to make a difference.

What matters is what goes on during those family meals, which has an effect on the likelihood of obesity.

The data for this analysis comes from the 2012 Ohio Medicaid Assessment Survey – a telephone survey of 12,842 Ohioans. The participants said that they ate at least one family meal a week prior to the interview.

Obesity was calculated as a body mass index at or above 30, based on self-reported height and weight measurements collected in the survey.

More than half the participants reported eating family meals on most days, 35 per cent had family meals on some days and 13 per cent on few days a week. One-third of the participants were obese. A third of the participants watched TV or videos most of the time during family meals and 36 per cent of the participants never did.

The analysis took into account other differences in the study population such as employment status, marital status, race, education and age.

As the study was based on the current behaviour and weight of the participants, it could not ascertain the reason behind the relationship between meal habits and weight.

The analysis found that people who had the lowest odds of obesity were the ones who ate home-cooked meals and did it without  TV or a video to watch, every time they ate a family meal.

Obesity was found to be as common in adults who ate family meals one or two days a week as in those who ate family meals every day.

Even though frequency of family meals was not a considered a contributor of obesity, it does have many other benefits for wellbeing, social and emotional Health.

Previous research has found that children and adolescents benefit from frequent family meals leading to better dietary outcomes and less chance of children becoming obese or over weight. Other studies have shown that adolescents who watch TV during family meals consume less healthy meals.

Before this analysis very few studies have been able to show the connection between mealtime practices or family meal frequency and health outcomes in a large population of people.

The urge to switch on the television or have a frozen dinner is always high. But by making an effort to cook a meal and allocating the time to participate with the family during meal times has far greater benefits socially and emotionally and also for your health and wellbeing.

Source: Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

Meena Azzollini

Meena Azzollini

Meena is passionate about holistic wellbeing, alternative healing, health and personal power and uses words to craft engaging feature articles to convey her knowledge and passion. She is a freelance writer and content creator from Adelaide, Australia, who draws inspiration from family, travel and her love for books and reading.

A yoga practitioner and a strong believer in positive thinking, Meena is also a mum to a very active young boy. In her spare time, she loves to read and whip up delicious meals. She also loves the smell of freshly made coffee and can’t ever resist a cheesecake. And she gets tickled pink by anything funny!

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