TV Dinners. We'd always assumed eating in front of the tv wasn't good for us (not that we let this stop us), but a new study by researchers at the University of Minnesota says that eating together as a family is what matters - whether the tv is on or not.
Eating in front of the television usually connotes junk food and mindless eating and this is especially a concern with children. Growing up, our family ate only a few meals a year in the tv room and we made an event of it - going to the grocery store together to pick out tv dinners (which we never otherwise ate) and choosing a show to watch together. According to researchers, our parents were onto something.
Recent studies reveal insights into the "power of the family meal". Children who eat with their parents simply eat healthier food. Girls in the study who ate by themselves ate less fruits and vegetables and more snacks and sodas. They also ate up to 14% more at the family table than alone which is important news for parents concerned about eating disorders. Similarly, boys ate more vegetables and more calcium-rich foods with their parents than alone.
Possible reasons for this discrepancy may be that parents put better food on the table when the family is gathered together or that parents role model better eating habits for their children. Surprisingly, the researchers found only small difference in families who ate with a tv on and those who did not. While the preference is for family talk over tv, they pointed out that television can draw sullen teens to the table.
The researchers emphasize that parents shouldn't feel overwhelmed with guilt if they can't get the family together for every meal, but that every bit helps and that family meals can be a powerful tool for healthy kids and functional families.
See the full New York Times article here.
(Image by Nola Lopez for the Times.)