Spending time with the family, especially at the dinner table helps kids eat healthy and stay fit.
Eating meals together can also help kids cut the risk of developing eating disorders or weight problems later in life, say researchers.
In a study of 200 families, researchers found that children whose family members shared meals that lasted 20 minutes at least four times a week weighed significantly less than peers whose family dinners were three or four minutes shorter.
‘Families have significant influence on childrens dietary habits and weight and should be involved in planning healthy living campaigns’
Parenting styles, parent-child attachment relationships and feeding practices all have been found to be reliable indicators of children's food consumption, eating behaviors and risk for obesity.
"Although the causes of obesity are complex, families have significant influence on children's dietary habits and weight and should be involved in planning healthy living campaigns and efforts to curb food marketing that targets children," said Barbara H Fiese from the University of Illinois.
"The family system plays an important role in understanding childhood obesity not as a source of blame but as part of a larger ecology that may support or derail children's health," the researchers stated in the paper published in the journal Family Relations.
Family communication is key to the developmental processes that promote or disrupt healthy eating habits, physical activity and internal cues to satiety, they noted.