Keeping your smartphones away from the dinner table is a good rule for any family to live by. Not only will it promote family unity, but new research published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health indicates it could be a key to preventing childhood obesity.
Food experts studying the Mediterranean diet have found that when it comes to healthy children, it’s not just about what families eat but how they eat it. The researchers analyzed the frequency and duration of family meals, where it took place, the use of digital devices, the preparation of food, and the type of communication. They found that when families devoted more time to each other, sat at the table, were undistracted by phones, and engaged in conversation, they also eat healthier.
Interviews with teenagers show vast improvement in their health when they leave phones or tablets off the table. Researchers note that conversation at the dinner table and eating slowly can help children learn to recognize when they feel full.
Eating together is essential for strong families. Dinnertime is one of the best times parents can bond with their children. This new research provides another good reason to put the distractions away and come together at the table.
Anna Bach-Faig from the Open University of Catalonia, a contributor to the research, states, “The Mediterranean diet is much more than a list of foods. It is a cultural model which includes how these foods are selected, produced, processed and consumed. … Just as we recommend five fruit and veg a day, we could also propose at least one family meal a day.”