Watching television can have a negative impact on your child’s overall eating habits. On average, children living in America spend six (6) hours or more watching movies, TV programs with commercials, and/or playing video games. Documented studies have shown, that the more time spent in front of a television, the more body weight increases (this is true for children, as well as adults). This may be the result of a combination of being sedentary in front of a screen, and also not paying attention to what is being consumed.
Commercials are made to sway the viewer, in order to desire the product that is being advertised. Every day children may see up to 20 advertisements (more than 30 minutes), that promote a tempting food or drink. Food and beverage advertising account for more than 50% of commercials seen during a child’s television program. Children, between the ages of 8 and 12, can view up to 8,000 food-related ads each year. In fact, on a yearly basis, the food and drink industry will spend over 1.2 billion dollars on marketing food and beverages, to children younger than 12 years of age.
Many foods advertised are not a healthy choice for growing bodies and minds, as many contain large amounts of sugar, fat, and calories, while lacking in much needed fiber, vitamins, and minerals. In fact, many food and drink advertisements shown on television, that target children, do not meet nutrition recommendations.
Is it possible to fight against those advertising and to promote healthy eating habits? YES!
- Do not watch TV or use other electronic devices during mealtimes or while consuming snacks. Eating together on a regular basis, without distractions, such as television or cell phones, will offer the opportunity to bond as a family, and also promote healthy eating habits.
- When watching programs, choose to edit out commercials by pre-recording a program or renting child appropriate videos. Choosing to watch a public television station is also another great option, in order to limit tempting advertisements.
- Spend quality time together learning about food and nutrition. For instance, start growing a garden together, visit the local farmer’s market, or have a discussion in the produce section of your food store. Read nutritional fact labels, and use this time to educate your children on what foods are good for their body and mind.
- Open up the kitchen to children’s curious minds. Children love to help and learn. This is a great opportunity to teach about kitchen and food safety. Assign young children simple tasks, such as setting the table or preparing a salad.
- Set limits on screen time. It is recommended, that children, between the ages of 2 to 5 years old, should spend only one hour a day watching TV or playing video games.
- Children learn from observing their parents; therefore, be a good role model. Choose healthy foods and drinks, limit your own time watching TV, and spend less time on the computer for non-work-related activities.