Don’t eat in front of the TV! According to Brian Wansink, author of Mindless Eating, studies show that people eat more in front of the tube, because they’re not paying attention to how much food they’re ingesting. That’s great information for adults, eating alone or as a couple. There’s new research on this specifically for kids.

A brand new study by the University of Minnesota looked into the eating habits of 40,000 families – families that include at least one middle-school teenager. Researchers say they were stunned by what they found. At least HALF of the kids they talked to reported watching TV during the family meal. When researchers broke the numbers down, they found that eating with the TV on isn’t nearly as bad as eating ALONE! In fact, eating healthy had nothing to do with the TV at all, but whether or not families ate their meals together.

This study is amplified by a report published recently in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior. They found that the best way for parents to improve a child’s diet is to eat as a family. Kids who dine with their parents are more likely to eat fruits, vegetables and calcium-rich foods.  While kids left to make their own meals usually eat more junk and high-sodium frozen dinners! Also, kids who normally sit down to a family meal are far LESS likely to try smoking, or drinking alcohol. Of course, ideally, it’s still a good idea to leave the TV off. For some parents, watching a show together can spark more family conversation – so you don’t go the whole night wondering how your kid did at school that day.