For people obliged to follow a special diet or those who have undergone bariatric surgery, taking part in meals together as a family rather than alone in front of a computer or television could help maintain balanced eating habits, a new study suggests.
Published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, the study also indicates that patients were more likely to have family meals when they had good communication and moral support from their loved ones.
The study involved 259 patients, all parents of a child between the ages of 2 and 18, who were registered at accredited weight management and bariatric surgery centers at Ohio State University and Wake Forest University in the USA. The patients were asked questions about family meal practices, as well as parent-child discussions on specific topics such as diet, weight and body image.
According to the survey, families with younger children were more likely to eat dinner and breakfast together. The researchers also found that parents who perceived their child to be overweight or obese were four times more likely to discuss this topic with them.
“It’s important to ensure communication directly about children’s weight is not harmful in their development of a healthy body image and behaviors. That includes older children and adolescents who are at greater risk of developing eating disorders and disordered eating behaviors,” points out Keeley J. Pratt, a professor at Ohio State University, who directed the study.
“Additional research assessing the family meal practices and weight talk in the families of adults pursuing weight loss could yield important evidence that could lead to improved patient outcomes, and safely promote healthy behaviors and prevention of obesity in children,” conclude the authors of the study.