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Objective

What predicts whether a child will be at risk for obesity? Whereas past research has focused on foods, eating habits, feeding styles, and family meal patterns, this study departs from a food-centric approach to examine how various dinner rituals might influence the BMIs of children and adults.

Methods

In this study of 190 parents (BMI = 29.1 ± 7.2) and 148 children (BMI = 20.3 ± 4.4), the relationship between their BMIs and everyday family dinner rituals was examined using both correlation and regression analysis (controlled for educational level of parents).

Results

Families who frequently ate dinner in the kitchen or dining room had significantly lower BMIs for both adults (r = −0.31) and children (r = −0.24) compared to families who ate elsewhere. Additionally, helping cook dinner was associated with higher BMI for girls (r = 0.26), and remaining at the table until everyone is finished with eating was associated with lower BMI for boys (r = −0.31).

Conclusions

Dinner tables may be one place where social support and family involvement meet—both of which relate to the BMI of children as well as parents. Family meals and their rituals might be an underappreciated battleground to fight obesity.