Distractions occurring during family mealtimes can lead to poor nutrition choices and negative family interactions, according to a new study.
‘Distracted eating’ has been implicated in the risk of obesity and unhealthy food choices. A recent study has assessed whether distraction during a family meal would have any effect on behaviour or food consumption in this setting.
Researchers from the University of Illinois, United States, have reported the findings of their study in the journal Couple and Family Psychology: Research and Practice. The researchers recruited sixty families to take part in the study, which consisted of them eating a meal together in a research facility that was constructed to simulate a home environment, including a kitchen, dining room, and living area. During the mealtime, families were distracted by continuous loud noises coming from the next room, while another group of families who were not exposed to such distraction served as the control group.
The researchers found that when families were exposed to the noisy mealtime environment, they consumed a greater amount of cookies when compared to the families who ate their meal in a quiet environment. The noisy environment also altered behaviour and family dynamics, suggesting that family mealtimes can be negatively affected by distractions, supporting the need for a calm environment to foster positive family mealtimes.
Fiese, Barbara H.; Jones, Blake L.; Jarick, Jessica M. “Family mealtime dynamics and food consumption: An experimental approach to understanding distractions.” Couple and Family Psychology: Research and Practice, Vol 4(4), Dec 2015, 199-211.
Written by Deborah Tallarigo, PhD