Do you catch yourself eating dinner in front of the television? Researchers at the University of Minnesota have just published a new study highlighting the potential health risks of this practice, especially for families with children.

The findings revealed families that leave the TV on during dinner tend to eat less healthy food and to enjoy the meals less than those who leave it off. This was even true when the TV was on only as background noise and families weren’t even watching, according to Reuters.

Researchers reached these conclusions after analyzing video recordings of 120 families who had a child between the ages of 6 and 12. Participants were recruited mostly from primary care clinics in Minneapolis between 2012 and 2013 and the majority of participants were from low-income and minority groups.

Data was collected by the research team after families recorded two of their group meals using an iPad and reported what they’d eaten and rated how much enjoyment they’d felt — as well as whether a TV was on during the meal.

“Family meals are protective for many aspects of child health,” lead author Amanda Trofholz told Reuters by email. “Having the TV on during the family meal may reduce the opportunity for this connection between family members and blunt the protective effects of the meal.”

However, researchers also found that children of TV-watching families were not more likely to be overweight those who shut off the tube during meals.

“Families who see the family meal as a time to connect with and enjoy their families may be more likely to turn off the TV, have a higher quality meal, and enjoy the meal more,” Trofholz said.

Source: Trofholz AC, Tate AD, Miner MH, Berge JM. Associations between TV viewing at family meals and the emotional atmosphere of the meal, meal healthfulness, child dietary intake, and child weight status. Appetite. 2016.

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