Whatever the reason, Martin said that when you miss a meal, you'll likely end up hungrier later and may overeat then.
"I think the importance of family meals is something that should be underscored," added Andrea Vazzana, clinical coordinator of the pediatric weight management program at the New York University Child Study Center in New York City.
"Kids that sit down with their family tend to have a more normal weight. Parents can provide structure for the meal, and the meal tends to be more well-balanced. Parents can also set limits around food," explained Vazzana, who added that when parents eat with their kids they can let them know that it's not a good idea to have two helpings of dessert first and then forgo the vegetables.
The second factor that Martin found to be a predictor of excess teen weight was how much time the family spent in front of the TV or playing video games. Those who spent a few hours daily on these activities tended to be heavier.
"Families develop patterns together," said Martin, but those patterns don't have to be bad ones. "Try to be active together. Go for a walk after dinner, play with the dog, play Frisbee. Spend quality time together that's also active time."
Vazzana said it's not just the displacement of activity that contributes to overweight, it's also that people tend to eat while they're watching TV, and they see food ads or shows that may focus on food.
"Sometimes it's really difficult to be healthy, and we may start adopting behaviors that really don't work well. But there are some things we can do consciously and even small changes can make a long-term difference in weight," said Martin.
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