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TV Dinners May Lead to Unhealthy Meals, Obese Children

Nov 07, 2016 05:22 AM EST

Families eating dinner with the TV on have a tendency to eat unhealthy food and enjoy the meals less compared with those who turn off the TV, based on a recent U.S. study

This stands true even for families who are not glued to their TV sets but only have it as a background noise, the researchers wrote in the journal AppetiteAmanda Trofholz, lead author of the study, stated in an e-mail that family meals are defensive for numerous aspects of a child's health. She added that it's time for parents to educate their children on this and set limits on their eating habits.

Trofolz, who is also a researcher at the University of Minnesota, said that having a family meal with the TV on cuts down the opportunity to build connections between members of the family and kills the meal's safeguarding effects. The team studied 120 families that included children in the age range of six to 12. Video recordings of these families were made and examined to find out the relation between watching TV at meal time and the associated risks for obesity among kids. Most of the families were from minority and low-income groups and were recruited from primary health centers in Minneapolis from 2012 to 2013.

The families were asked to record two of their meals using an iPad and were requested to report what they had consumed and how much they enjoyed it. Over 33 percent of the families switched off the TV during both the recordings. Only 25 percent had eaten one meal with the TV on, while 43 percent left it on during both the meals.

The study team analyzed the health and emotional atmosphere of the meal. From the families having their meals with the TV on, only two-thirds were attentive to the TV while the remaining third had it as a background noise. It was found that families who consumed the food without the TV or with the gadget on during a single meal had a great time compared to those who ate both the meals while watching. Researchers also found that kids of families who eat meals while watching TV had a tendency to be obese or overweight.

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