You have just made dinner, your favorite show is on TV and you are ready to relax. This situation is definitely familiar for many people and their families. But can it really affect your eating habits?
Recent studies done in the U.S. show, that eating dinner with the TV on can cause bad eating habits and get in the way of healthy diet. Even having TV on in the background takes away the necessary attention from having food.
Having a meal with family can be a very positive experience, especially for growing children. It makes children feel secure. This is the time when the whole family comes together and can talk about their day, their thoughts and feelings. It is also a great time for parents to teach children about healthy eating habits, by setting an example. If the TV is on, people are more likely to focus on it, than talk to each other.
The study analyzed video recordings of 120 families with children, aged 6 to 12, mostly from low income and minority groups. Two family meals were recorded, after which family members reported to researchers what they have eaten and how did they enjoy the meal. Researchers then assessed if the meal was healthy or not, and if the TV was on or off.
There were three groups of families- one group had the TV on and they were paying attention to it, one group had the TV on the background and the third group didn´t have the TV on at all. The families, that ate without having the TV on enjoyed their meals more that the families, who had the TV on. The families who didn´t watch the TV ate healthier food than others. Also, the families that had the TV on, but didn´t pay attention to it, ate healthier than the ones who watched TV.
In the research, it was also observed that families, who actively watched TV while eating, tend to choose a lot of fast food. Connection between watching TV while eating and being overweight was not made. Having the TV on while eating can be a distraction that causes overeating. Meal time, especially for children, should be about focusing on the food, trying out new things and self-regulating the quantity of necessary food. It was also observed, that both grownups and children pay attention to the commercials on TV, and later on choose foods they have previously seen on TV. That can be one of the reasons, why families who have TV on while eating tend to choose junk food over healthier food.
Researchers think that family meals should be treated as a time to connect with each other, not to out in front of the TV. It is important to develop healthy eating habits in small children, because it can shape their habits later in life. The research also proved that families enjoy their food and time together more, if there is no TV on.