Sitting down together as a family to eat is an important factor in making healthy food choices, and one that is confirmed by research studies, said a nutrition expert at Baylor College of Medicine.

"Having a family meal can be good for the body and the soul," said Kristi King, registered dietitian at BCM and Texas Children’s Hospital.

King says that research indicates that:

  • Children are less likely to become obese.
  • Children being less likely to consume alcohol, smoke cigarettes and try illegal or prescription drugs.
  • Children will have better grades in school.
  • Parents are more likely to hear about any serious problems that might be occurring in a child’s life.

King recommends several steps to starting family meals:

  • Set a goal – start with twice-a-week family meals.
  • Have everyone help out – children can set the table, help plan the meal and help cook the meal.
  • Make the meal conversation enjoyable and ask questions.
  • Make a rule that no phones are allowed at the table.

She also recommends that if children have too many after-school activities to make the family meal happen at dinnertime, consider turning breakfast into family meal time.