Public Health Nutrition


Does eating family meals and having the television on during dinner correlate with overweight? A sub-study of the PRO GREENS project, looking at children from nine European countries

Eva Roosa1a2 c1, Tuuli Pajunena1, Carola Raya1a2, Christel Lyncha3, Ása Gudrun Kristiansdottira4, Thorhallur I Halldorssona4, Inga Thorsdottira4, Saskia J te Veldea5, Michael Krawinkela6, Isabel Behrendta6, Maria Daniel Vaz de Almeidaa7, Bela Franchinia7, Angeliki Papadakia8a9, Joanna Moschandreasa8, Cirila Hlastan Ribiča10, Stefka Petrovaa11, Vesselka Dulevaa11, Irena Simčiča10 and Agneta Yngvea3a12

a1 Folkhälsan Research Center, Paasikivenkatu 4, 00250 Helsinki, Finland

a2 Hjelt Institute, Department of Public Health, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland

a3 Department of Biosciences and Nutrition, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden

a4 Unit for Nutrition Research, Faculty of Food Science and Nutrition, School of Health Sciences, University of Iceland & Landspitali University Hospital, Reykjavik, Iceland

a5 EMGO Institute for Health and Care Research and the Department of Epidemiology & Biostatistics, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

a6 Institute of Nutritional Sciences, Unit for International Nutrition, Faculty of Agricultural Nutrition, Environmental Sciences and Home Economics, Justus-Liebig-University, Giessen, Germany

a7 Faculty of Nutrition and Food Sciences, University of Porto, Porto, Portugal

a8 Department of Social Medicine, Preventive Medicine & Nutrition Clinic, University of Crete, Heraklion, Crete, Greece

a9 Centre for Exercise, Nutrition and Health Sciences, School for Policy Studies, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK

a10 National Education Institute of the Republic of Slovenia, Ljubljana, Slovenia

a11 National Center for Public Health Protection, Sofia, Bulgaria

a12 School of Hospitality, Culinary Arts and Meal Sciences, Örebro University, Örebro, Sweden


Objective Family meals have been negatively associated with overweight in children, while television (TV) viewing during meals has been associated with a poorer diet. The aim of the present study was to assess the association of eating family breakfast and dinner, and having a TV on during dinner, with overweight in nine European countries and whether these associations differed between Northern and Southern & Eastern Europe.

Design Cross-sectional data. Schoolchildren reported family meals and TV viewing. BMI was based on parental reports on height and weight of their children. Cut-off points for overweight by the International Obesity Task Force were used. Logistic regressions were performed adjusted by age, gender and parental education.

Setting Schools in Northern European (Sweden, the Netherlands, Iceland, Germany and Finland) and Southern & Eastern European (Portugal, Greece, Bulgaria and Slovenia) countries, participating in the PRO GREENS project.

Subjects Children aged 10–12 years in (n 6316).

Results In the sample, 21 % of the children were overweight, from 35 % in Greece to 10 % in the Netherlands. Only a few associations were found between family meals and TV viewing during dinner with overweight in the nine countries. Northern European children, compared with other regions, were significantly more likely to be overweight if they had fewer family breakfasts and more often viewed TV during dinner.

Conclusions The associations between family meals and TV viewing during dinner with overweight were few and showed significance only in Northern Europe. Differences in foods consumed during family meals and in health-related lifestyles between Northern and Southern & Eastern Europe may explain these discrepancies.

(Received March 18 2013)

(Revised July 31 2013)

(Accepted October 02 2013)

(Online publication March 19 2014)


  • Family meals;
  • Television;
  • Overweight;
  • Children;
  • Europe


c1 Corresponding author: Email