Editor's note: This continues our occasional feature on fighting childhood obesity.
Maybe your mom wasn't June Cleaver, sporting an apron and pearls.
And Dad didn't wear a tie.
But the chances are pretty good that you sat down almost every night to a family meal.
Food appeared hot out of the oven and everyone was given a chore — setting the table, serving, washing the dishes.
There also was proper etiquette and shared conversation.
Today, for many people, such a scene is a quaint luxury.
Food is bought on the run and most talk takes place in the car as children are shuttled from one activity to the next.
A shared meal is no longer a daily ritual.
But, according to a recent study, the importance of the family meal goes beyond tradition.
It improves children's nutrition, encourages healthy eating habits and reduces the risk of childhood obesity.
The results of the study, published in the May 2 issue of "Pediatrics," show that young people who share at least three family meals each week are more likely to be a healthy weight and less likely to have eating disorders than those who shared mealtimes less frequently.
Overall, families who eat five or more meals together have children who are 25 percent less likely to encounter nutritional health issues than children who eat less than or equal to one meal with their families, the study said.
Unfortunately, family meals are a dying art, said Lisa McCoy, a registered dietitian with the Washington County Health Department.
"Sitting down together happens less frequently than it used to," she said.
Aside from the recent study, McCoy said there has been other research to back up the importance of breaking bread together.
"People become more conscious of what they are eating," she said. "Not only is food prepared more healthfully, but portions also play a factor."
If you go out to eat, McCoy noted, often the portions are larger than what you would prepare for each individual at home.
"Plus, you don't always know what ingredients were used. When you cook at home, you have more control over your food choices," she said. And children will tend to eat more fruits, and vegetables and fewer snacks.
McCoy said an example can be set by sharing a family meal.
"You are a role model for your children. You might not realize it at the time, but they will mimic eating habits that will be followed later in life," she said.
McCoy said she talks to many people who say they work all day and don't have time to put a homecooked meal on the table.
"I use the crock pot," McCoy said. "It's great to make all sorts of things, from soup to lasagna. And when you walk through your door at night, your meal is ready. It's like having your own personal chef."
For those really hectic days, the meal doesn't always have to be homecooked, she said. Take advantage of nutritious foods, like a freshly roasted chicken from the supermarket. Round it out with vegetables, fresh fruit and a salad.
"It's all right to occasionally bring food home. An important part of the family meal is sitting down together and making eating an enjoyable time," she said.
McCoy said parents should also realize that children don't require the same amount of food on their plates as an adult.
"Children are very good at knowing when they are full," she said. "As adults, we tend to ignore those signs. Instead, we tell them they haven't finished eating and they can't get up from the table until their plates are clean. We are encouraging overeating."
McCoy also suggested serving water or milk with meals.
"There was a time when most people drank milk, regardless of the meal or the occasion," she said. "Now, soda is the norm, which has no nutritional value and adds calories."
When sharing a meal, McCoy said it's a good opportunity to observe your child's eating habits and detect any signs of eating disorders.
"A lot of teens go through a phase where they are very body conscious," she said. "You might hear them say they're getting fat or they have to lose weight. You might see them pass on the potatoes because they think they're fattening."
The same can be said for observing a child who has increased his or her food intake.
"It's an opportunity to have a discussion that you couldn't have if you weren't all sitting down at the table," she said.
In addition to better eating habits, McCoy said studies have shown that children who connect with their family at mealtime get better grades and have a lower risk for smoking and drug and alcohol use.
McCoy said healthy eating begins at home "but I'm amazed at many young mothers who have no idea how to cook."
"I've done cooking classes for young mothers who were never taught how to cook," she said. "They never spent time in the kitchen growing up and, sometimes, were never given a homecooked meal."
McCoy said it's never too early to teach children about food preparation.
"Even if it's tearing up lettuce for a salad, get them involved," she said. "By encouraging them to help with the meals, they are more likely to eat healthfully and carry those habits into adulthood."