Watching Television at Dinner Decreases Nutritional Quality for Kids

Nutritionists have long been telling clients not to eat while watching television.  While it may sound like an act of the food-police, several studies have shown significant relationships between television viewing and increased caloric consumption when the two are not separated. The primary reason for this is not metabolic: it is simply that we don't tend to pay attention to what we are eating while being entertained.

One such study was published in the journal Pediatrics. Authors recruited ninety-one families and conducted 24-hour dietary recalls to determine food intake. The results of the diet were analyzed and compared with television viewing habits. Forty-one (45%) of the families regularly watched TV during two or more meals regularly. 

Children from families with high television use consumed more of their total daily calories from meats, pizza, salty snacks, and soda.  Kids who watched TV during meals consumed twice as much caffeine and significantly less fruits and vegetables than children in families with low television use.

"Families who turn the television off during meals are separating the act of eating from the world contained inside the television set, and to that extent there is a boundary between private family food culture and the food culture promoted on television," stated the authors.

The importance of nutrition for children is well established.  In this study, parental knowledge of nutrition had  little or no relationship to children's consumption of vegetables - indicating, in this case, that eating environment was more important than education for improving diets of youth.

Coon KA, Goldberg J, Rogers BL, Tucker KL.  Relationships Between Use of Television During Meals and Children's Food Consumption Patterns. PEDIATRICS