Children's T.V. Choices Could Affect How Much They Eat


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
  :  68 comments   :  14,984 Views

I'll admit it: I'm a snacker. For as long as I can remember, I'm someone who doesn't go more than a few hours without eating. I can't imagine eating breakfast at 6 a.m., and then waiting until 11 or 12 to eat again. I think my body would go into shock or blow up or something. As my daughter gets older, she's becoming just like me. "Mama, let's have a snack," she'll say, right around the time I'm thinking "Geez, I'm hungry. I wonder what I could have to eat."

I try to make our snacks as healthy as possible (fruit, veggies, granola bars, yogurt, etc.) Although I don't have to worry because my daughter doesn't watch T.V. yet, a new study shows a link between what kids are seeing on T.V. and how much they eat. So if you've got a young snacker at home who likes to watch T.V., or a child who eats meals in front of the tube, you'll want to keep a close eye on just how much they are consuming.

This study, conducted by the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale, involved 118 children between the ages of 7 and 11. Each child was given a bowl of Goldfish crackers and allowed to watch a cartoon. One group was shown ads for games and entertainment during the commercial breaks. The other was shown ads for junk food like potato chips and fruit roll-ups. The group who saw the food ads ate 45% more Goldfish than the group that saw the game ads. The results suggest a correlation between how much someone eats and what they are watching on T.V. My guess is that a study of adults would yield similar results.

Do you or your children eat meals or snacks in front of the T.V.? Have you ever noticed a correlation between what you (or your child) are watching and how much you're eating?

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  • 68
    Not a chance in hell no way. For one the tv rapes the power bill duing the day when kids are awake. Its limited to one hour a day. 2- tv is in the living room. We live in an apartment. Under no circumstance are we paying THAT cleaning bill. - 5/18/2012   11:24:39 PM
  • 67
    7:36:12 PM

    My son is allowed to eat watching TV only as a special treat, but never on a regular basis - we did this for a while at first because I didn't have a table or a separate place to eat, but once we moved to our new house, the new rule was eating at the table. Additionally, we only watch videos without commercials (except, of course, those they sneak in at the beginning), so mostly my son is not affected by the advertising. But, like a previous poster said, sometimes he'll ask for whatever it is the character on TV is eating or doing - luckily, most of the characters eat healthy snacks, so I'll agree and give him a little, but it really depends. Lately, I've decided to test how much he really wants the snack and tell him he can have it IF and only if he gets up to get it himself. I'm hoping this will help him decide whether or not he really is hungry enough or if he's just responding to what he's seeing on TV.

    I think a rule of only eating at the table is a good one to uphold, because kids will not be willing to miss thier show to go to the table to eat a snack, which means they are not really hungry after all. ;) And if they are really hungry they won't mind going to the table to eat it. - 4/9/2010   4:44:24 AM
  • 66
    My son is allowed to eat watching TV only as a special treat, but never on a regular basis - we did this for a while at first because I didn't have a table or a separate place to eat, but once we moved to our new house, the new rule was eating at the table. Additionally, we only watch videos without commercials (except, of course, those they sneak in at the beginning), so mostly my son is not affected by the advertising. But, like a previous poster said, sometimes he'll ask for whatever it is the character on TV is eating or doing - luckily, most of the characters eat healthy snacks, so I'll agree and give him a little, but it really depends. Lately, I've decided to test how much he really wants the snack and tell him he can have it IF and only if he gets up to get it himself. I'm hoping this will help him decide whether or not he really is hungry enough or if he's just responding to what he's seeing on TV. - 8/9/2009   7:36:12 PM
    My almost 3 year old daughter is already affected by tv munchies. If someone on tv is eating a cookie or ice cream or crackers that is magically what SHE wants. I've been giving her fruit cut up in a bowl before the tv is turned on, then she snacks on that instead of asking for what "Dora" or "Max and Ruby" are eating. :) - 8/4/2009   2:12:35 PM
  • 64
    What ever happened to the Three Stoogies? - 8/3/2009   9:07:45 PM
  • 63
    Your blog intrigued me because earlier today my five-year-old kept asking for snacks while resting on the couch watching a favorite show....and it was after he'd eaten his lunch! - 8/3/2009   9:06:58 PM
    We're big snackers, and we do eat in front of the TV. Luckily, my boys (ages 8 and 5) are tall and skinny like Daddy. But I do keep healthier snacks in the house, since you can't eat what's not there. And the kids only get an occassional soda, like at a party or on vacation, and we discuss that it's really unhealthy to drink them all the time. - 8/3/2009   4:40:53 PM
  • 61
    My daughter likes to watch Dragon Tales when we are eating, but it doesn't have commercials. Much of the tv we watch is DVD's. I only get to watch tv-tv after dinner and everything else that needs to be done. - 8/3/2009   2:22:07 PM
    My kids only watch a half hour of tv a day, maybe an hour on the weekend. They're not allowed to eat in the living room--they have to be at the table--so they don't snack while they watch. On weekdays, they watch after the eat breakfast, before school or camp. On the weekends, they tend to like to watch tv first, eat breakfast later, so that's what they do. - 8/3/2009   10:46:06 AM
  • 59
    We have a no eat policy in our living room...this applies to everyone. The only exception is movie night and that is only the air popped popcorn I amke for us all. - 8/3/2009   10:13:42 AM
  • 58
    I'm sure eating in front of the TV as a kid helped me develop my awful eating habits. I know that when I overeat now it's often on a day I spend too much time watching TV or movies. But I love my DVR so I can skip most of the commercials and I'm not really tempted by food in the shows themselves. In fact, one of the reasons I love the Food Network shows is because the presentations tend to feed most of my senses calorie free. I find it hard to chew on a bag of chips or cheesy crackers when I'm watching someone cook real food. Often I'm inspired to eat healthier because of the show.

    Food advertising is so manipulative and nothing is sacred. Not only are children exposed to incessant ads for snack foods but even diet programs use food in an attempt to draw people in. One of the major players in the diet game runs an ad about "hunger," in this case represented by a furry creature shoving food under someone's nose. Last time I got a hunger craving from watching TV, it was that commercial that did it. - 8/3/2009   12:26:35 AM
  • 57
    I LOVE eating while watching TV (although I don't have a TV so I actually watch my laptop). I don't know what it is, but I swear it makes me food taste 1000% better. - 8/2/2009   11:45:26 PM
    We don't watch TV anymore, except for the occasional movie, which I screen first. - 8/2/2009   6:13:27 PM
  • 55
    I don't have a TV at home ~ so that's one less problem for me to encounter. When I'm away from home, the TV is in the other room & we always sit at the table to eat. - 8/2/2009   1:14:06 PM
  • 54
    I don't have kids, but as an adult I like to pay attention to where I eat also. I make sure I eat my meals at the table, even at parties when there isn't room for everyone I will be one of the ones at the table. The only time I eat in front of the tv is for my evening snack; this is all measured and put in a dish before I go to the living room. I have even gotten my fiance into the habit of eating at the table.

    I agree with the study; I think you do, unconsciously, eat more if you are in front of the tv. - 8/2/2009   11:54:39 AM
  • 53
    I used to love watching Food Network - now I rarely do because it makes me so hungry! We also have a "food at the table" rule, though we do break that from time to time for living room picnics and movie nights. For the most part my kids eat pretty healthfully, but I have noticed that they've been wanting to snack more since they've been watching a little more TV this summer. - 8/2/2009   11:00:34 AM
  • 52
    All the kids have been growen and out of the house for7 yrs. now, but the last was 21 at the time and hardly around. We do not really snack that much, but yes we when we do it is in front of the TV. For me usually Fruit,or Pretzels on a rare occassion a peice of candy or a Klondiake bar. - 8/2/2009   3:36:09 AM
    We have a similar rule: food only at the table. On special occasions, we may let the kids eat popcorn in front of the TV if we have family movie night.

    I have found that commercials for food (especially sweets..........chocolate!) make my cravings worse when I am really trying hard to cut back. So, I fully agree with the results of the study! - 8/1/2009   11:02:22 PM
  • 50
    We eat ALL the time - but NEVER infront of the TV. We have a "food in the kitchen only rule" (with 4 kids, ya! LOL)

    We eat breakfast at 8am, snack at 10, lunch at noon, snack at 2, dinner at 4, snack at 6pm... then nothing until breakfast again. - 8/1/2009   8:45:11 PM
  • 49
    I allow my 9 year old to eat too many snacks in front of the TV, but I plan to buy fewer processed snacks and start providing healthy alternatives. He is at an average weight, but I want him never to have to struggle with weight, as I have over the years. - 8/1/2009   8:11:39 PM
  • 48
    This makes sense. After all, when we go to the movies don't we want popcorn. It's almost like we are programmed like Pavlov's dog. And personally, if I make it past the smells and counters to my seat, then I have to make it through the opening advertisements and crunching sounds of those around me. At home it is just easier to feed that sudden urge for a want that isn't a need. - 8/1/2009   7:30:49 PM
  • 47
    That feeling of being deprived of fast foods was a problem with my now adult sons when they were kids. We enjoyed eating together until they became teens and the rat race changed our routine. Meals in front of the TV helped me take away some of the loneliness I felt from eating alone. I've recently learned to enjoy my company and listen to mellow music while I eat.

    On a side note: when I do watch network TV and food commercials come on, I have to still consciously tell myself that I'm not hungry when my mouth starts watering. - 8/1/2009   6:56:28 PM
  • 46
    I agree the tv has affected my weight in a major weigh. Not so much snacking in front of the tv, but we started eating meals in front of the tv. It would have been better to eat at the table and talk about our day, enjoy our food, and let each other know we cared. That would have slowed down the eating and the depression and much much more. I pray other families do it the right way. - 8/1/2009   5:43:40 PM
  • 45
    I totally agree with this. My kids unwind at the end of the day and play games or watch tv and they sit and eat and eat. I have to say the kitchen is closed but when I go to bed they are in the fridge again. So I quit buying chips and junk. There is plenty of fruit and vedgies. The fruit wins. - 8/1/2009   3:35:08 PM
    One solution to this problem is to not let the child watch TV for hours on end, or at the very least, have a rule for the household, no eating anywhere in the house except at the table (the house will be cleaner for that rule!).
    Television, especially for the age group in the study, is more of a cheap babysitter than quality programming.
    And those ads!! They are specifically designed for that age group and presented in a manner that kids simply can't resist! Set limits on TV - and TV game - times.
    Get the kids outside to play - activity, not endless hours in front of the TV, will keep the kids healthy. Healthy snacks will keep their energy up for that active play. - 8/1/2009   2:13:53 PM
  • 43
    Yes! It is not an accident that food is being shown all the time on TV. If not commercials, then you get to watch people eating in the programs. - 8/1/2009   2:00:35 PM
  • 42
    My DH and I eat in front of the TV a lot. The kids don't. We usually snack there after they go to bed. But we try very hard to eat our regular meals with the kids, at the family dinner table. We don't allow the kids to eat in front of the TV unless it is a special occasion (like the Super Bowl or Wimbledon finals or the baseball playoffs). - 8/1/2009   1:23:01 PM
  • 41
    This makes a lot of sense. When we see something that would taste good, and we have a snack in front of us, we would eat that as a substitute. There are so many snack commercials on children's television too so that they can ask mommy and daddy for these cool new snacks. - 8/1/2009   11:57:51 AM
  • 40
    Although I don't have children, when I helped my mom with her in-home day care, snacktime and meals were not allowed in front of the TV (except on rare occasions when we may try to feed a child when it was the time the kids could watch TV.) But researchers have been saying this for years, TV does have an affect on eating habits, children and adults, food commericals and intense focus on a show. I believe that the snacking with TV should be done in moderation, not only snacking at TV times and when with TV, paying attention to portion control. - 8/1/2009   10:03:01 AM
  • 39
    Well I'm not surprised by this report. We don't have cable, so our kids are only exposed to tv via PBS or DVDs. Recently, we were on vacation & I was shocked at the commercials being broadcast during kids shows. It freaked me out to watch the direct marketing to kids. I was glad to get back to my sheltered little life! - 8/1/2009   9:53:51 AM
  • 38
    Ah, yet another reason to kill your television - I love it! We don't watch TV, only dvds - 1 per weekend. On a rare occasion, mostly when DH is absent, I'll let the kids watch a movie and eat dinner carpet-picnic style. However, both my daughter and I LOVE to read at the table (only allowed at breakfast if we're not all together for that meal).... - 8/1/2009   8:59:07 AM
  • 37
    This post brings to mind a topic we've been talking about on the message boards this week - I asked other members if food blogs are detrimental to 'dieting' or trying to live a healthy lifestyle. Although we all agreed that they don't present a problem for us, it does make me wonder if spending free time staring at delicious pictures of food and reading recipes has the same sub-conscious effect on consumption? I don't have a tv so the internet and blog-reading has become my relaxing, lazy evening entertainment. Am I setting myself up for failure, just like the kids watching food ads? - 8/1/2009   3:22:35 AM
  • 36
    Nine times out of ten our dinner is in front of the TV when my other half is home for dinner. He is gone until 8 or 9pm 5 nights a week, so that's not all bad, since my ideal dinner time is no later than 6pm sometimes I have the tube on, sometimes I eat outside to watch the sun set over the mountains. I make sure we have at least on nice meal at the dinner table one of the two nights he's home mostly for "us" time. One of the biggest things I've learned on SP is portions, portions, portions. I weigh and measure everything and pre plan 99% of all meals and snacks. So mindless eating is not really a problem.

    I love, love, love to read cookbooks and watch FoodNetwork and other similar shows as well as have subscriptions to a couple food related mags. Most all of my cookbooks these days are healthy cooking, but I love the challenge of taking something really high cal, high fat, unhealthy and turning the recipe into a good healthful one.

    Before SP was a totally different story. An entire regular bag of xtra butter pop corn, the bag of ruffles, an entire carton of Haagen Daaz, a whole row of double stuff oreos....I don't even buy the stuff anymore. LOL, my other half loves popcorn, ICCM and chocolate. I make him keep the ice cream in the deep freeze outside, the chocolate is buried under fruits in the fridge and on popcorn night....he pops the bag, I scoop 15 pieces out and make him put the bowl on the other side of himself.

    Mahalo nui loa SP for showing me the way!!! - 8/1/2009   3:22:03 AM
    My son doesn't eat in front of TV (He's 4). He learned it from me because I don't like eating while watching, never been a fan of it. - 8/1/2009   12:21:49 AM
  • 34
    My son is 41. If I knew then what I know now, I would not have let him watch t.v. while eating. I think it contributed to his poor eating habits and to his obesity still today. - 7/31/2009   10:25:04 PM
    I eat a lot anyways. I think the key for me is protein. If I don't get it, I can sit in a comfy chair and eat lots of cheese nips while watching tv. - 7/31/2009   10:18:21 PM
  • 32
    For my son, I only play Baby Einstein videos around him, so we don't have to deal with commercials. I do allow him to have his snacks on the floor or in a chair, while watching these videos, but they're pre-counted by me so that he doesn't just mindlessly eat (which is a big problem our whole household has/has had with eating while doing... anything).

    I could definitely see a problem with commercials.... I know that they affect me (oh the pizza ones) as well as programs (FoodNetwork) that have wonderful foods on them. Although i can honestly say since starting SP I've started to watch a LOT less TV, and am usually on here messing around or doing my exercises or chasing my son. - 7/31/2009   10:12:08 PM
  • 31
    We have very strict rules when it comes to TV watching. Our 7 year old doesn't get to watch TV whenever he wants to. He watches Discovery with his Dad or a DVD movie of his choice under our supervision. So his exposure to TV commercials is very limited. The odd time when he sees the DQ and A&W commercials but he doesn't snack in front of the TV so that doesn't affect his snacking habit that much. - 7/31/2009   9:02:35 PM
  • 30
    I'm OK with my kids snacking in front of the TV. But I pre-portion our snacks also. I have a bin in our pantry with baggies of various snacks. My kids know that when it's snack time, they can have one of whatever is in the bin. I have raisins, goldfish, snack bars, lowfat Cheez-its, etc. I use the servings mentioned on the box and individually count and sort it out ahead of time. It has not only saved in calories but has saved us money too. Plus, the my kids don't argue about "who got more." If they don't want what's in the basket, they choose one piece of fruit or a snack-sized yogurt or cheese stick. They also drink tons of water all day long. I'm the same way. I portion everything now! - 7/31/2009   8:50:25 PM
  • 29
    We only allow food in our dining room and kitchen. We do not have snacks while watching tv ever. I have friends who think it is awful that we do not eat popcorn while having a family movie night, but our kids know that if they want something to eat, the tv must be turned off, the snack is eaten at the dining room table. After the snack is over permission must be asked for the tv to be turned on. We also limit the amount of tv they watch. We try to keep it to one hour a day. If it is very hot out, cold out, or raining, we will allow a little more. - 7/31/2009   8:32:35 PM
  • 28
    I won't let myself eat in front of the tv. I am less likely to pay attention to what I am eating and end up eating way too much. My daughter only watches an hour of tv a day (30 min show before preschool and 30 min show after pm nap), but we do not let her eat in front of the tv, either. - 7/31/2009   7:47:48 PM
  • 27
    I gave up my tv, mainly because there's really so little on it that's healthy to watch, there's so much drama.....

    I do however, have a dvd player (besides my laptop) and I have noticed that if I'm watching something and there's food in it (usually there is) I want to snack on something.

    So recently I made the choice of having apples, grapes, peaches, or a smoothie, something like that ready if I'm going to watch a movie and then I feel nutritionally safer. - 7/31/2009   7:16:05 PM
  • 26
    As an overweight teacher and parent, I am very concerned with the eating patterns of our youth. I think SP is a great site teaching its members about nutrition and exercise. I don't have TV reception anymore but I know commercials with any type of food do trigger the desire to consume food which is mouth hunger, not belly hunger. We would all do our children a favor by limiting TV time. - 7/31/2009   7:11:39 PM
  • 25
    My kids are not allowed to have food at all out side of dining room so they obiously do not eat in front of the tv. They are always hungry though and so I let them have snacks. They are on the go so much that they burn the calories in an apple in 10 minutes or less. They are also allowed one treat a day if they eat their dinner. ( I make sure they are appropriate proportions for them) Once in a blue moon we have popcorn with a movie. I do believe that advertising sends affects kids eating as well as adults. I also believe it is with everything. I wonder how many kids wanted a certian game after seeing the commercial for it. Thank goodness for dvr. - 7/31/2009   5:42:21 PM
  • 24
    I know every time I see something good to eat on TV, I want it. My BF likes to cook and is always watching the Food Network. I can't stand to watch all that good food and not eat. I try not to eat in front of the TV so I don't do "mindless" eating, but my stomach sure starts to growl when I see any kind of food being prepared. - 7/31/2009   5:15:53 PM
  • 23
    I figure there is a relationship, as it makes sense. I use the REMOTE CONTROL and skip the commercials by changing channels. - 7/31/2009   3:51:55 PM
  • 22
    I plan my TV evening snacks and pre-portion them in the kitchen. :)
    I also mostly watch Stargate SG1 on DVD or other TV shows on DVD - no commercials!
    Heck, I won't eat half the stuff they advertise anyway. Anytime meat or cheese pops up in ads (and it's a lot!) I just feel sick to my stomach. Not in the mood to nosh after that. Heh. - 7/31/2009   3:44:58 PM
  • SZNN4570
    Use to, but not any more. - 7/31/2009   3:26:59 PM
  • 20
    I limit TV for myself in general and only allow water or herbal tea these days. A very rare time with Smartpop while watching a movie. Otherwise I find myself mindlessly eating. For me, watching the TV is the treat, not the eating part. - 7/31/2009   2:42:43 PM
  • 19

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