Parents in Ireland have been urged to ban their children from using phones and tablets during mealtimes to stop them from becoming obese.

Health experts have warned that kids who remain glued to their devices while eating are more likely to pile on the pounds.

And obesity watchdogs are also encouraging adults to apply the same no screen rule to themselves at the dining room table, amidst concern that people who stare at a screen over dinner are more prone to eating larger portions and consuming more calorie-laden food.

Joana da Sliva, a spokesperson for Safefood Ireland, said, “If you've got a tablet or a smartphone at the dinner table, then what happens is the food becomes secondary to the screen.

"This is likely to impact on the choice of food, increasing calorie and fat intake.  And if you're distracted by a screen, then you're also more likely to eat larger portions, too, and to consume the food more quickly than you would if you weren't distracted.

"So we would certainly urge families to ensure that their dinner tables are screen-free zones.  We need to take time to enjoy and savor our food, and to make the right food choices to stay healthy.  That's very difficult to do if you're distracted by a smartphone."

The warnings back up a recent study in the journal Physiology and Behavior, which found that people who used a mobile phone at mealtimes ate 15 percent more calories.

Meanwhile, obesity watchdogs believe children's use of technology at home should not just be restricted during mealtimes, but in their bedrooms, too. Safefood Ireland has also been vocal in calling for kids' bedrooms to be made screen-free zones to ensure youngsters don't pile on the pounds.

Read more: Fast food in Ireland could soon be taxed to tackle obesity