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Family meals might help kids keep a healthy weight

Parents can reduce their kids’ probabilities of being overweight, eating junk food or having eating problems by eating with them at least 3 times per week, according to US researchers

Reuters, Monday 2 May 2011
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In the first report to combine all existing studies on the issue, they found kids who eat with their parents at least three times a week had 12 per cent lower odds of being overweight.

The children were also 20 per cent less likely to eat junk food, 35 per cent less likely to have eating problems, like skipping meals or bingeing, and 24 per cent more likely to eat vegetables and other healthy foods.

"Sitting down together as a family, there are nutritional benefits from that," said Amber Hammons, a psychologist at the University of Illinois at Urbana, Champaign, whose findings are published in the journal Pediatrics.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, childhood obesity has more than tripled over the past 3 decades, reaching close to 20 per cent in 2008.

The extra pounds may weigh down on kids' self-esteem and can set them up for health problems, such as heart disease and diabetes.

The new report is based on findings from nearly 183 thousand children about 2 to 17 years of age. While those studies yielded mixed results and weren't easy to compare, overall they show regular family meals are tied to better nutrition.

As a result, the researchers encourage families to spend more time together around the dinner table.

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