A recent study found no dramatic drop in the number of meals families are eating together. Researchers say children who have family dinners most days of the week have higher intakes of protein, fiber, calcium, and vitamins, but childhood obesity is still an epidemic. Cleveland Clinic Registered Dietitian Kristin Kirkpatrick says the benefits of a family meal can be undermined by dinner choices- like fast food.

"So, instead of picking something up on the way home from school, pick up ingredients, and then as a family cook," she explained.

Kirkpatrick says the family meal should be had at the dining room table with all electronic devices turned off.  She says watching television during dinner could undermine the benefits of family mealtime because kids are more likely to eat more by not paying attention to how much they're consuming. Kirkpatrick adds, allow your kids to have a say in the menu and maybe even let them pick out the ingredients.

She says when the family finally sits down together, you should pay attention to portion sizes and do not institute the "clean plate policy."

"Studies have shown that when parents actually force their children to finish everything on their plate, even if it's fruits and vegetables, it really sets them up for some unhealthy eating behaviors into adulthood," Kirkpatrick warned.

She says to avoid family style dinners and instead, plate your child's meal before it gets to the table. She also advises you use smaller plates and appropriate portion sizes,  habits that will help your child develop a healthy lifestyle.