Professor Dame Sally Davies, the chief medical officer, said “mindless” eating was fuelling obesity and stunting child development.
The professor told a health care event: “My understanding is that when people are using screens or watching television, their calorie intake goes up and often their salt intake. We would like people to sit down and eat together.
“And, actually, if you look at child development, they need to interact with their families - with the adults - and meal times are a very important part of that.
“So anything through education and support that will help those interactions - proper meal times with healthy food are going to help our children develop effectively and probably help our waistlines.”
Britain is in the midst of an obesity crisis, with two-thirds of adults and a third of children now overweight or obese.
Obese children are about five times more likely to become obese adults, increasing their risk of diabetes, heart disease and cancer - heaping further pressure on the NHS.
Studies have linked computer screen time and watching TV to rising levels of childhood obesity - both in terms of sedentary lifestyles and exposure to junk food advertising. It has also been found that eating food while on the go does not fill you up as much as sitting for a meal at a table.
However, Dame Sally warned that structured reforms, including extending the sugar levy and food reformulation, were vital to make it easier for people to live healthily.
“Politicians do need to listen to me and I keep telling them this,” she told the “Prevention and the future of health” discussion. Daily Mail