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Family dinners can offer much more than just food

Apr. 11, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

Are you a "chow and chat" or a "grab and gulp" family? It makes a difference: Your household eating style influences the physical and emotional health of each family member. While 60 percent to 70 percent of folks, including teens, say they sit down together most nights, the majority of people admit they eat with the TV on (always or sometimes), and 5 percent confess to texting or emailing at the table. And many family meals last 20 minutes or less -- not enough time to digest all the good things that can come from eating together.

1. Teens who regularly eat dinner at home with their parents are less likely to be depressed or to smoke tobacco and marijuana, and studies show they're generally more helpful.

2. Kids don't pack on extra pounds if they have regular family dinners -- probably because there are healthier nutritional choices available (even if they don't love veggies yet), and they're less stressed.

3. During shared dinners, parents can teach everything from manners to cultural traditions (including food choices). That's important for improved nutrition and family unity.

4. If you eat together, maybe you can also get in the habit of cooking together. It's a great way to expand kids' food tastes (they like to eat what they cook).

So tonight, evaluate your family meal: If it's "Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle," "Babette's Feast" or "My Dinner with Andre" (we don't think you have to talk that much!), it could be time to rescript.

Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, visit sharecare.com.

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