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By Courtenay R. Hall

Turn that TV off during dinner.

I love sitting down and having dinner with my family. More often than not, it is just the kids and me. My husband works crazy hours and is only home for dinner one night a week. The kids and I sit down six days a week for dinner. The rule is no phones, no Kindles, no Leap Pads and no TV. I don't think it hurts to sit down and talk to one another. Granted, my kids are still young, but I hope what they learn now will carry through their lives. You can't even escape the TV at most restaurants anymore. There is usually one or more hanging on the wall somewhere. There is nothing worse than sitting across the table from someone who can't stop looking at the TV for two seconds. You wonder, Hello? Are you paying attention to me? Why is what's happening on that TV so much more important than our conversation? DVR it for later!

Not only is it kind of rude to be watching, it can also lead to unhealthy eating habits for children. Research shows that children who eat their meals while watching TV have a far more poorly executed diet then those who do not. It also indicates that families who eat together – without TV – eat more balanced meals. I was trying to figure out why that might be. The only argument that I can come up with is the ease and speed the processed, unhealthy foods can be prepared. Processed finger foods that aren't a healthy option tend to be the go-to foods for TV-watching. I know on Friday nights I usually make pizza for the kids. They like to have a picnic in the living room and enjoy their pizza and watch cartoons. That is our one night that mom lets loose a bit.

Other research shows that kids can under-eat as well as overeat if they watch TV at meal time. A child can be preoccupied and not notice the hunger signs their body is telling them. More research is being done to decide whether watching TV while eating is partly causing the obesity epidemic in children, though it is not certain if the food choices or lack of exercise plays more of a role in this.

The bottom line is that as a parent we should know what is good and bad for our children. Taking time to turn off the TV and electronics during meal times is something every family should strive for. Sitting down and talking to one another can help build connections between the family as well. You learn what your kids are up to in school and they can find out what goes on with you at work. I love listening to the stories my kids tell me. They get so excited and are very animated telling me about their day. I have also noticed that they eat more of their dinner and don't feel the need to snack as much later on. Just some food for thought.

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