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Family Meals At The Dinner Table Are Now 'Outdated' New Study Finds, And It's Actually Not A Bad Thing

New Monash University research has found families are increasingly eating meals at the kitchen bench or in front of the TV while balancing busy lifestyles.

As part of the research, primary school-aged children in Victoria from 50 diverse families kept photos and video of family food consumption, providing a unique window into how busy lifestyles impact family meal-times.

The study found that despite sit-down family meals being encouraged as a remedy to tackling childhood obesity, family breakdowns and depression, for many families it was unattainable.

Sydney-based mum Elizabeth Talbot told 10 daily that while her family -- her partner Ben and their children Ari, three, and Isobel, eight months -- often "tried" to sit-down for dinner together, it "rarely happened".

"I keep thinking when they’re older it will be easier, but I think the habit needs to start early otherwise it’ll never happen.

Despite family meals being encouraged as a remedy to tackling childhood obesity, family breakdowns and depression, for many families it was unattainable. Image: Getty

"Plus Ari loves his stomach and has to eat dinner at like five, so it’s a bit early for Ben to be home from work. I also work two nights a week," Talbot said.

Families interviewed by Monash researchers revealed working long hours, long commutes, conflicting schedules, children’s sports, and parents’ commitments all impacted on evening meals, with some children eating in the car between activities.

Professor of Sociology Jo Lindsay said the Monash research, published on Saturday in Critical Public Health journal, showed Australian families are "configuring meals in a variety of practical ways to provide nourishment and manage time pressures and relationships.

“Reinforcing nostalgic versions of family life is just not realistic," Lindsay said. "We don’t want parents feeling like a moral failure or that they are compromising their child’s health because they are eating separately or in front of the television. It’s just not the case."

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Parents should do their best to encourage sit-down meals because "families are losing communication", according to mum-of-three Elisabete Gomes.

Gomes told 10 daily that her and husband Rui plus their kids Jaden, 18, Brenden, 15, and Rubie, 13, sat down for dinner together "around five out of seven days still".

"It’s important for us, because Rui and I believe life is so busy and our kids are all at different stages in life. When we sit down for a meal, we chat about what’s happened through the day," Gomes said.

"People are feeling lonely even among there own family, and feel they can’t communicate. Sitting down for a meal is the perfect time to come together."

Contact the author: samelia@networkten.com.au