Parents may want to limit electronic media at mealtime

Jan. 2, 2014, Reuters

Parents who let their teens use electronic devices or watch TV during family meals tend to serve less nutritious food and have poorer family communication, a new study suggests.

Experts have suggested turning the TV off at mealtime for years. But with the advent of cell phones and other handheld devices, kids can bring all kinds of media with them to the table.

“The findings of this most recent paper showed that mealtime media use is common among families with adolescents but that setting rules around media use at meals may reduce media use among teens and have other positive benefits as well,” lead author Jayne A. Fulkerson told Reuters Health in an email. Continue reading

Dinner rituals that correlate with child and adult BMI

Oct. 29, 2013, Medical Xpress

Beyond plate size and calorie count, the war against obesity may have a new leader – the dinner table. Families that eat together without the television on and stay seated until everyone’s finished have children with lower weights and body mass index (BMI), reports a Cornell behavioral economist in the October issue of Obesity.

Strong, positive socialization skills during dinners possibly supplant the need to overeat, the researchers explain. Mothers and fathers who talk meaningfully with children, especially young boys, about their day during dinner also have lower BMIs.

“The ritual of where one eats and how long one eats seems to be the largest driver,” said Brian Wansink, professor in Cornell’s Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management and director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab. He co-authored the study with Ellen Van Kleef, assistant professor at Wageningen University in the Netherlands. Continue reading

Changing up family routines can help kids shed pounds

Sept. 9, 2013, daily RX

There is more to combating obesity than ensuring that children eat healthy food. There are other factors that can increase children’s risk of obesity — and they can be addressed within a family.

A recent study found that adjusting a couple household routines in low-income, racially diverse families could help reduce children’s weight.

The most successful routines involved increasing the amount of time that children sleep and decreasing the time they spend watching TV on weekdays.

Children in families making these changes saw a small but significant drop in their average body mass index (BMI). BMI is a ratio of a person’s height to weight that is used to determine if they are a healthy weight or not. Continue reading