Eating for Health

Published on January 15th, 2014 | by Jill Ettinger


Family Meal Time Can Prevent Obesity in Children

family meal

Encouraging a family meal experience can help children develop healthier relationships with food.

Once again the holidays have come and gone, and we’re back to the grind. The humdrum can get the best of us as we fall into routine, especially when it comes to food—eating on the go, or parked in front of the computer (guilty!). But now, there’s even more evidence about the benefits of participating in a family meal, especially for children.

Of course, if you live in France or Italy, you already know this. In those places around the world where the family meal is as much about the time together as it is good food, children in particular have healthier relationships with food. There’s no bag of Cheerios scattered across the dinner table. Kids eat real food. And, yes, they enjoy it.

Now, we’ve got research to back up what the Italian and French have known for ages, reports International Business Times. According to a paper published in the recent issue of the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition, children who are more engaged in their meals are less likely to become candidates for childhood obesity.

Kids who are forced to put foods on their plates—or allowed to opt-out of participating in the family meal for less healthy options—can have a harder time accepting new foods and healthy eating habits.

Family-style meals give kids a chance to learn about things like portion size and food preferences

Said study author and University of Illinois researcher Brent McBride in a statement.

When foods are pre-plated, children never develop the ability to read their body’s hunger cues. They don’t learn to say, okay, this is an appropriate portion size for me.

And the family meal approach isn’t limited to the home, either. Schools and day care centers could help improve the health of children by employing the same methods.

Instead of asking ‘Are you done?’ teachers should ask children, ‘Are you full?’ Or they should say, ‘If you’re hungry, you can have some more

co-author Dipti Dev said in a statement.

Asking the right questions can help children listen to their hunger and satiety signals.

Meal image via Shutterstock

Keep up with the latest sustainable food news by signing up for our free newsletter. CLICK HERE to sign up!

Tags: , , ,

About the Author

Jill Ettinger is co-director of Eat Drink Better. She is the senior editor at and A focus on food, herbs, wellness and world cultural expressions, Jill explores what our shifting food, healing systems and creative landscapes will look, sound and taste like in the future. Stay in touch on Twitter @jillettinger and .

One Response to Family Meal Time Can Prevent Obesity in Children

  1. Pingback: » Latest Healthy Recipes News

Back to Top ↑
  • Support our Site!

  • Advertisement

  • Let’s Connect!

  • Advertisement

  • Popular Posts & Pages

    Whether you are looking to completely give up animal products or just want to try eating vegan some of the time, we want to support you! Below, you’ll find articles answering some common questions about vegan cooking and nutrition. If you don’t see your question answered below, please get in touch with us! We are happy to investigate for you!

    Find out what's in season now, plus get plenty of recipe inspiration to help you make the most of every season's beautiful, local fare.

    I love infographics. When I came across this one about what, how, and when to plant vegetables, I thought I’d share. Keep reading after the pic for a few of my own lessons learned.

    Top Sustainable Food Jobs of the Week.

    Looking for an all vegan grocery store? Even if you’re not lucky enough to have one in your town, there are lots of online options for vegan grocery shopping.

  • Advertisement

  • Search the IM Network

  • The content produced by this site is for entertainment purposes only. Opinions and comments published on this site may not be sanctioned by, and do not necessarily represent the views of Sustainable Enterprises Media, Inc., its owners, sponsors, affiliates, or subsidiaries.