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Family Dinners Are So Important For Kids' Eating Habits

Now that the school season is in full swing, many parents have probably found that life is getting pretty busy once again. Between balancing school, work and extracurricular activities like sports and music lessons or even getting extra help with studies, it can seem like there's little time left for quality family time.

Having a family dinner isn't something that is feasible for many families. With many households that have two working parents combined with a full activities schedule for the children, finding time to sit and share a meal is becoming more and more difficult. But if you're worried about your children's eating habits or even your own, you may want to do your best to make time for the family dinner.

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Dr Brian Wansink of Cornell University and D. Ellen van Kleef of Wageningen University in the Netherlands surveyed 190 parents and 148 children about their meal time habits. They were asked a broad range of questions about how they shared their meal times and then had their height and weight recorded and their BMI (body mass index) measured.

The survey found that those families who shared a family dinner together had a lower BMI than those who didn't. Not only did the survey show that family dinners benefit children who eat dinner with their families, but it also benefits the parents.

Parents who stated that they often ate dinner with the television on had a higher BMI, while boys who had dinner with their families at the dinner table tended to have lower BMI. This is especially true in settings where the entire family stayed at the table until everyone was finished. Families who ate dinner at a dining room or kitchen table tended to have lower BMI numbers all around, although girls who tended to help prepare dinner tended to have a higher BMI.

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The study's authors admit that this doesn't prove that eating dinner as a family contributes to a person's BMI, but they do state that the study suggests that it shows the importance of the act of social sharing that comes with sharing a meal.  Family dinners are about so much more than eating. They're a time when parents can really find out how their children's day went, and encourage an open dialogue between parents and kids.

It does suggest that eating together as a family instead of in front of a television can help children share their feelings and concerns, which may prevent emotional overeating, not to mention allowing the parent to oversee what the child is eating and how much.

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We all know that eating a family dinner on a regular basis can be difficult, but this survey suggests that if you're looking to make your family healthier both physically and emotionally, it may be worth it to try to make it work. Enjoying a meal together not only allows parents the opportunity to make sure their kids are eating healthy, well balanced meals, but it also gives the entire family the opportunity to connect with each other. Sounds like a win/win situation.

READ NEXT: This Handy Chart Shows How You Should Be Portioning Your Meals

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