With obesity affecting one in six children and adolescents in the United States, American families need to make healthy eating habits a priority. According to a new study, one technique to add to their arsenal at the dinner table may be simply focusing on table manners. The study, published in the journal Pediatric Obesity, says teaching kids to eat at a slow pace—instead of limiting portions—may prevent kids from becoming overweight or obese.
Researchers looked at 68 kids between the ages of 12 and 13, about 43 percent of whom needed to lose weight. Then, over the course of a year, the researchers asked half of the kids to wait 30 seconds between each bite of food at mealtime, using an hourglass so subjects knew how long to wait. Those participants, who were also told to drink a glass of water before a meal and to avoid snacking and chatting while chewing, lost an average of 3.4 percent of their body weight.
Another group didn't pause between bites, and their weight increased by as much as 12.6 percent, according to the Wall Street Journal.
It's worth mentioning only 14 of the kids in the first group were compliant in using the hourglass to focus on eating at a slow pace; they lost an average of 6.6 pounds and their waistlines decreased by an inch. The non-compliant kids and those who were not asked to eat at a slower pace gained 15.5 and 12.9 pounds, respectively, and their waistlines went up by 2 inches.
Slowing down while you eat is advice given to adults who overeat because you may notice feelings of fullness if you take that time to listen to your body during a meal. The researchers said a person typically feels full about 15 minutes into a meal, no matter how much food is on the plate.
The takeaway: Slowing down during mealtime behooves everyone at the dinner table. It can be hard, though, given that sometimes dinner is crammed in between extracurriculars and homework in the back of the minivan. This is a good reminder to shut out distractions and make time for a leisurely meal whenever possible.
Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and a mom. Follow her on Twitter (@Spitupnsuburbs), where she chronicles her love of exercising and drinking coffee, but never simultaneously.