Adults who never watch TV during family meals and eat mostly home-cooked food are much less likely than others to be obese, according to a recent U.S. study.
Past research has suggested that more frequent family meals are linked to lower obesity, but in the current study of more than 12,000 Ohio residents, eating at home, rather than out, and without the television on, was tied to lower obesity risk regardless of how often family was present.
It may be difficult for some families to eat a meal together every day, but they may be able to have healthier habits for the meals they do share.
People might eat more food when they are watching TV. Restaurant and take-out meals are typically less healthy and higher in calories than meals that are home-cooked.
To determine how family meal practices affect obesity risk, the research team analyzed data from the 2012 Ohio Medicaid Assessment Survey on for 12,842 adults who had eaten at least one family meal in the past week.
The participants answered questions about how often they ate meals at home with their family, how often they watched TV while eating and how many of their meals were home-cooked.
The researchers used self-reported height and weight data to calculate each participant’s body mass index (BMI), a ratio of weight to height. People with a BMI over 30 were considered obese, and one third of participants fell into this category.
Not watching TV during meals linked to 37% lower odds of obesity
Overall, 52 percent of respondents ate family meals six or seven days per week, 35 percent ate family meals about every other day and 13 percent ate meals with family one or two days a week.
About a third of adults watched TV during most or all family meals, while another 36 percent did not watch any TV or videos during meals. For 62 percent of adults, all of the family meals they ate were cooked at home.
Researchers found that the number of meals people ate with their family was not linked to their likelihood of being obese.
Adults who cooked all of their family meals at home, however, were 26 percent less likely to be obese, compared with those who ate some or no home-cooked meals.
People who never watched TV during meals had 37 percent lower odds of being obese than those who always watched TV or videos during family meals.
While eating more family meals may be beneficial for health, the quality of meals is important as well. It’s important to consider the healthfulness of the food eaten at the meal, the emotional atmosphere at the meal, and whether there are distractions at the meal.
Source: Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, online February 24, 2017.
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