Teenagers who switch off the TV and sit down to family meals are less likely to suffer eating disorders.
A study has credited eating together with lower rates of bulimia and anorexia. Meals are also less likely to be skipped, and adolescents used to eating round the table are less likely to take up smoking to lose weight.
Researcher Barbara Fiese said: ‘The common belief is that teens don’t want to be around their parents very much, and that teens are just too busy for regular meals with the family.
‘Parents may not be able to get their families together around the table seven days a week, but if they can schedule three family meals a week, they will safeguard their teens’ health in significant ways.
Professor Fiese spoke out after reviewing 17 studies on eating patterns and nutrition involving almost 200,000 children and teenagers.
She found that teens who eat at least five meals a week with their families are 35 percent less likely to be ‘disordered eaters’.
The definition of disordered eating involves bingeing followed by vomiting - a tack favoured by those suffering bulimia - taking diet pills or laxatives, skipping meals, eating very little and smoking to keep a lid on weight.
Even three family meals a week helped, with youngsters 12 percent less likely to be overweight than those who ate with their families less often.
They were also 24 percent more likely to eat healthy foods and have healthy eating habits than those who didn’t share three meals with their families, the journal Pediatrics reports.
Teens can also use family meals as a time to get their thoughts across.