Why family meals matter

Families that eat together eat less food, but more quality food."
Dr Cliodhna Foley-Nolan


The family that eats together, eats healthily! Dr Cliodhna Foley-Nolan puts the case for regular, sit-down family meals.

Munching on autopilot

We are often asked about eating in front of the TV, or with earplugs of the iPod in and watching the laptop – does it affect the quantity and quality of what we eat? Well, yes, it does. All the evidence suggests that eating meals in front of the TV is associated with poorer eating habits. We go into “munching autopilot” and, distracted by the TV, don’t realise when we're full. There's no talk, and very little tasting or enjoyment of the food – you could be eating cardboard!

What’s more, there is a strong and direct relationship between eating in front of the screen and an unhealthy diet and weight. It’s better if children don’t get into this habit, so turn off your TV during mealtimes. Better still, don’t have a TV in the kitchen or dining area.

Eating together as a family is both social and a great way to have some quality time as a family. Not to mention the family time, the swapping of funny happenings, the squabbles that make up a family life and lifelong bonds. Your children will remember these rituals with fondness, so it’s worth the effort.

Older kids have busy schedules, so aim to eat with them at least a few times a week. For younger kids a sit-down meal should happen every day, or most days.