Children who sit down to eat with their families at least three times a week are less likely to be overweight or to eat junk food, researchers have said.

They claim that youngsters who sit down to eat with their parents were 12 per cent less likely to be overweight, 20 per cent less likely to eat junk food and 35 per cent to suffer from eating problems. They were also 24 per cent more likely to eat fruit and vegetables.

The evidence, based on anecdotal observations made by researchers at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, was collated from looking at 17 studies and is published in the journal Pediatrics.

Researcher Amber Hammond said that sitting down together for family meals my mean that parents may monitor and influence what their children eat at meal times.

"We also know that families that sit down together are less likely to eat high-calorie food," she said.

Posted by Robert Mair on 3.5.11 Comment on this article by sending it to: penny.hosie@pavpub.com