Banning Technology from the Family Dinner Table May Result in Healthier Kids — Here's Why

Forks up and phones down.

By: Amanda Mushro
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1176845606

Directly above shot of family and friends toasting drinks while enjoying meal at home during Christmas

Photo by: Klaus Vedfelt

Klaus Vedfelt

For many families, eating dinner together every night was something that rarely happened — that is, until Covid forced us all into quarantine. Then, as we found ourselves at home a lot more, family dinners became a common occurrence and researchers wanted to uncover some of the positive aspects of this return to family meal time. While sharing delicious food among your fam is always great, one study says we should be ditching the screens and making dinner together a priority for our children’s health.

According to a new study, families who eat together without the distractions of technology could be helping their kids combat childhood obesity and improving their overall health. Researchers say eating as a family without technology means there are conversations happening between you and your kids. As your family chats, children are able to eat slower and better recognize when they are full, so they won’t overeat during mealtime — which are two factors that help fight obesity as a child and as an adult, according to the study. Researchers also noted that as the adults planned meals, they made healthier food choices, which the children also began modeling.

"At a time when lockdown due to the pandemic has revived family meals, this study indicates one of the possible positive aspects of the situation that we have had to confront," explains the study's researcher, Anna Bach-Faig. "A healthy diet is not just what we eat, but also how we eat it."

For the study, researchers conducted in-depth interviews of families in Catalonia, Spain with kids ages 12 to 16 years old, and focused on socialization at mealtimes and how this affected their health. They found that children who lived in homes where family meals were eaten at the dinner table (not grab-and-go) and technology was banned during mealtime ate healthier than families who allowed phones and tablets during meals and didn’t sit down to eat as a family.

Many of the participants noted that eating dinner as a family was much easier when their children were younger, but as the kids became busier with their own activities, family dinners became harder to plan. However, as one mother explained, having dinner together with your tweens and teens can help parents feel connected to their older kids. "It is easier when children are small, but in adolescence there is a disconnect between you and them and, thanks to these conversations, you can gain a little insight into their world," explained one of the mothers interviewed.

So, as life slowly gets back into full swing and your family resumes their busy schedules once again, this study could have an important takeaway: "Just as we recommend 5 fruit and veg a day," explains Bach-Fair, "we could also propose at least one family meal a day."

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