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Digital dining



By Sarah Klein

A recent study from the Rochester Institute of Technology set out to examine how the Internet, smartphones, and social media impact our eating habits. Perhaps not surprisingly, the findings show that people are now more likely to have meals while sitting at the computer than at the kitchen table.

The study looked at how RIT students prepared and ate their meals, as well as how they interacted with others during mealtimes. “As opposed to their parents or grandparents, college students do not see meals as a central activity in and of itself, either for enjoyment or communication,” Madeline Varno, a senior communications major at RIT and principle author of the study, said in a press release.

So what’s the big deal? Where you eat shouldn’t really matter, as long as you make sure you’re getting all five food groups, right?

There are a couple of problems with eating in front of the computer. Perhaps the most troublesome is that people tend to consume food mindlessly, not keeping track of what or even when they eat. And that has a dircet impact on how much we eat. Research has shown that distracted diners consume up to twice as many calories as diners who focus on their food.

Lunching at your desk also means less exercise. And studies have shown that desks are surprisingly filthy—bacteria have a field day with those tiny crumbs that fall into the keyboard and elsewhere.

It remains unclear how the results apply to younger children. Their days tend to be more structured, with allotted cafeteria times at school and meals prepared and presented by parents at home. But with more and more parents multitasking—whether it’s dad answering emails at the dinner table or mom preparing a TV dinner so she can take that important call—there’s no doubt that our increasingly technology-driven lives are influencing our children’s eating habits as well.

That’s just one more reason to try and make meal times as tech-free as possible. Use dinner as a time to talk and catch up—and that doesn’t mean reaching for the smartphone!



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