Does TV Influence What Your Child Eats?

by Susan Moores, MS

Does TV Influence What Your Child Eats?

TV time can take a toll on your child’s nutrition. Why? Many kids spend a fair amount of time in front of the television and research shows they are easily swayed to choose the foods they see advertised. Some of the foods shown in commercials don’t do them any favors when it comes to feeding their growing brains and bodies. Many are high in fat, sugar, sodium and/or calories and they often lack vitamins, minerals and fiber.

In fact, a recent study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly Journal of the American Dietetic Association) found that, on average, eating foods typically advertised on TV provided more than three times the amount of sugars and two and a half times the amount of fat a person should have in a day.

How can you tame TV temptations?

Karen Ansel, MS, RD, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics offers these tips:

  • Watch commercials with your kids. Ask them what they think of the foods being pitched and what might be some tasty (more healthful) options. When kids are making choices, “health” and “nutrition” are not big motivators so link healthful foods with things your kids care about, like foods that will help them run faster, jump higher, be stronger, etc.
  • Avoid diss-ing “junk” foods. Kids won’t respond to it and it may actually work against you. Restricting or bad-mouthing these types of foods can actually increase your child’s interest in them.
  • Help your kids learn more about their foods. Teach them to look at an ingredient list and suggest that together you “see what’s inside” an advertised food they want to try. It’s a great way to discuss the nutrient value of a food.
  • Bring the kiddos into the kitchen. And have them jump in to help out. Kids are naturally curious. Take advantage of their desire for discovery to clue them in on the amazing flavors, shapes and colors of healthful foods.
  • Turn off the tube at mealtime. Family meals are a prime opportunity to establish great eating habits, great conversations and great feelings about healthful foods. The family is a major influence on what and how kids eat. As parents, it’s your job to decide what foods are available to eat and what is offered at a meal. Your kids pick up on your food preferences and your attitudes about food. Give them some positive impressions.
  • Put a few parameters around TV time. TV can become the default activity for kids – something easy to do for long periods of time. Set a few guidelines for when and how much television is OK. Instead of simply telling kids to turn off the TV, have a few fun options to take its place, ideally ones that get kids up and active.
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About the author:

Susan D Moores MS

Susan Moores, MS




  • Cook healthy

    Involve your child in the cutting, mixing and preparation of all meals. Even a snack can be healthy.

  • Eat right

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  • Shop smart

    To encourage a healthy lifestyle, get your children involved in selecting the food that will appear at the breakfast, lunch or dinner table.

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