Eating dinner while watching TV may mean less healthy meals for families who tend to have the television on during dinnertime. A recent study showed that this was true even for families who just had it on in the background.
“Family meals are protective for many aspects of child health,” said lead author Amanda Trofholz. She also said that parents can use mealtimes to connect with children, and teach them about setting limits on food and diet choices.
“Having the TV on during the family meal may reduce the opportunity for this connection between family members and blunt the protective effects of the meal,” said Trofholz, a researcher at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.
The team analyzed videos of 120 families which included at least one child age 6 to 12. The families came from primary care clinics in Minneapolis and most were from low income and minority groups. One third of the families left the TV off during both meals that were recorded. A quarter of the families had TV on during one meal, and 43 percent left it on during both meals.
When families at with the TV on, two thirds paid attention to the TV and the other third had it in the background. Families who ate with no TV or TV during just one meal were shown to enjoy their meals more.