Georgiann Caruso is a CNN Medical Associate Producer
After a long, stress-filled day, you may just crave some comfort - and comfort foods like mac 'n' cheese or spaghetti and meatballs.
"Comfort foods are more about the heart than they are hunger," says Marisa Moore, registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition of Dietetics. "They serve to sort of bring up those happy memories from childhood or a time that you've spent with a loved one and they bring you psychological comfort."
Sating these cravings doesn't have to mean you’ve got to eat dishes that are high in fat, sodium or calories. Moore says you can still enjoy your favorite comfort foods while keeping them healthy and delicious.
A study in the journal Pediatrics finds that children and adolescents who share meals with their families at least three times per week are less likely to be overweight, eat unhealthy foods or be at risk for eating disorders.
"It tells parents what they can do to help in those nutritional issues with their children," said lead study author Amber Hammons, Ph.D., of the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign.
"We understand that parents are really busy, and that's definitely one of the biggest problems that's cited by parents- that it's just so difficult to manage time to prepare it and then to get all the family members to be present," she said. "What this study is suggesting is that sitting down for three meals out of the week tends to show this significant benefit." The researchers examined 17 previous studies, which involved 182,836 children aged 2 to 17. Their findings reinforced the recommendation by the American Academy of Pediatrics, as part of its campaign to prevent childhood obesity.
Read the rest of "Family meals benefit health of children" on The Chart.