Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Boob Tube And Food

A family sitting down to dinner is quickly becomming a very rare thing in the typical American Household. Busy schedules for parents and children make it nearly impossible. Many families are trying their hardest to bring back the family dinner, but with one caveat - they watch TV at the same time. Nothing brings out the flavor of fried chicken like watching Deal or No Deal, right?

Multitasking is the only way to survive the 21st century, it seems. But eating dinner while watching TV is not a new thing. We even have specially packaged meals with all the sodium and preservatives you'd want that are meant to be eaten while watching TV called "TV Dinners."

A new study done by the New York's Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for WIC (Women, Infant, and Children) studied the dining habits of over 1,300 families. Children and parents were surveyed on how often a family ate together, how often the TV was on at the time, and how often fruits and vegetables were offered during family meals.

There's a mountain of studies already showing strong correlations between the number of hours children watch TV and how fat they are, and it's been shown that families that eat together have better diets.

Overall, the more often a family ate together, the more often a child was offered fruits and vegetables. Those opportunities to eat healthy foods plummeted each night that the TV was on during dinner.

Why is that? Dr. Barbara Dennison, director of the Bureau of Health Risk Reduction for New York's Department of Health belives that when the "boob tube" is on, there's less focus on the food kids are stuffing their faces with. "In terms of the childhood obesity epidemic in this country, part of what contributes is not just how TV takes away from physical activity, but it's distracting, and you don't know how much you're eating. It's a double whammy."

This same study also found some other very interesting facts:

* Hispanic and black parents reported having the TV on more often that white parents

* Hispanic and white families tend to eat together more often than black families

* The television was on more often in a household where the head of household had less than a high school education

It's a very eye-opening study for sure, but one thing to note is that the study interviewed participants in the WIC program, which means they are receiving assistance getting their groceries. Eating healthy is NOT cheap. These households have to make their dollars and WIC assistance stretch as far as possible, so they choose cheaper but more refined foods to feed their kids. I mean, if you have mouths to feed at home, which would you have to choose: three-fourths of an apple or a 99-cent bag of 32 pizza rolls?

However, the study does make it clear that watching TV does negate the healthiness of a family eating together.

I have a theory too. Since watching TV turns kids' brains to mush, hence surpressing their attention to what they're eating and also subdues those biological sensations that tell them they're full...why not put a bunch of fruits and vegetables in front of them while the boob tube is on? There ya go - a win-win.

If your kid overdoses on grapes, what the worse that can happen? Massive diarrhea? Who cares. I've never heard of a kid getting fat from grapes.

OK, maybe you should wash those first. The pesticides will shrink your penis.


KC said...

We always eat in front of the TV. Except for holiday dinners, which we eat in the dining room (where we have a small tv set up in case we just have to watch something!). We're overweight, but we're not eating junk food. Go figure.

Grafs said...

I eat in front of the TV, but I watch my portions. The amount of fruits and vegetables offered to me is directly associated with Bubba being home and fixing them for me.

Carmel said...

we eat in front of the tv too, but we are careful with how much we eat. If it were up to me i'd eat at the kitchen table, but my husband and daughter like the boob tube. :)

Pixie said...

You got that right about the healthy stuff being more expensive- Its silly, of course people on a buget are going to pick the cheaper food!

We eat in front of the TV though although I do try to sneak some veggies in on WP's plate!

Am I the only person who finds deal or no deal a bore ?

mojotek said...

The sad thing really is how expensive it is to eat healthy. I can't believe how much I/we spend on groceries every couple weeks, and we're only feeding my girlfriend and I. I have no idea what I'm going to do when I actually have kids.

The most processed crap is the cheapest, which doesn't seem logical to me.

cube said...

We eat with the TV on except for holiday dinners. When my kids were little, I would always put some veggies on their plates. They'd poo poo them, but eventually I wore them down.

With the exception of brussels sprouts & lima beans, they eat their veggies today & actually like some of them.

As for fruit, I will put some in a bowl and soon enough, the rest of the family comes for a piece.

The trick is to make fruits & vegetables available & they will eat them.

Karen said...

Funny, we never ate in front of TV up until hubby retired.

Fated said...

Very interesting! When I was growing up (and even now when i go to my parents) we were not allowed to have the TV on during dinner. I really think that family dinners are important. It's a great time to catch up on each others days and keep good open communication between everyone. TV is just a distraction.. Boo to TV. I can't say anything though when I'm home alone I eat at the couch and coffee table...

Orhan Kahn said...

Multitasking is the only way to survive the 21st century..

It's true.

Personally I eat in front of the TV but that is only because I don't have a dining table, etc. I don't mind eating in silence on whilst talking to people. Nothing brings people together faster than food and/or music.

the weirdgirl said...

We eat in front of the TV, but we also TRY to eat healthy. (At least, I do for me and the kid. I can't claim healthy eating on the part of my husband.) Our current house is so small the dining table is our office, so the only space left is in front of the boob tube. Since we're moving to a new house with more space I think dinner time is going to change.

Nan said...

We eat at the dinner table but I wish we wouldn't! I always blame the husband - I bet he just want to avoid talking about controversial topics while he digest his food. Like I would ever bring up something controversial! Pfft.

Big Pissy said...

We've always eaten in front of the tv....mostly b/c the den and kitchen were one big room at our old house (where my girls grew up). We ate healthy, though, and neither of my girls ever had a weight problem

Now me?

That's another story. *LOL*

Tai said...

When I grew up it was VERBOTEN to watch tv while eating.
In fact, I was only allowed 4 hours a week. A WEEK!!
As an adult now, I don't watch any tv, and I adore vegetables.
Must be a correlation there SOMEWHERE!
(It's really interesting that the good stuff is so much more exensive than the highly processed stuff. Logic would dictate the opposite, don't you think? I may have to blog about that. Thanks P!)

BrianAlt said...

Stop it, you're making me hungry and I have no TV at work.

What am I to do?

angel, jr. said...

I'm not sure I could eat unless the television was on. I guess it's engrained in my head.
The best meals are those when all of my family and my cousins are all gathered to gether. There's way too much noise to eat in peace, but it's peaceful none-the-less.

Vani said...

what a cute pic (the last one) eating in front of the tv, its a pet peave of mine. its just how we grew up, dinner time was family time...when you actually talk to each other and ask how the other person's day was. Sometimes tho, on movie nights we have what we call a "carpet picnic" where junkfood is in order!! :)

Reiki 4 Life said...

i've heard those same studies and it makes sense...that when you are watching tv, you don't feel your body sensations of being full, etc. my kids do watch too much tv, but we do all sit down together sans tv for dinner every's just our routine now & I like it.

:P fuzzbox said...

I read your post while listening to 'TV Dinners' by ZZ Top and gained five pounds. Thanks.

Keshi said...

I didnt know some of our eating and TV habits depend on our race. I think it's more to do with the individual.


Jamie Dawn said...

Pesticides will not shrink MY penis - since I don't have one of those things hanging about.

We are TV watchers but never while eating dinner together. Our TVs are not near the dining area, so that's not even an option.
We eat dinner at least five nights a week together. That's hard to believe since we've got kids ages 16 and 18 who have friends they go out with regularly. They very often choose to eat here at home then go out with friends afterwards.
I love having family dinners together!

ozymandiaz said...

I don't think I care to much for haow you cast aspersions on my God, the great and powerful, all giving TELEVISION. TV has made my life rich and fulfilling. Without it I would be alone and adrift in this cold universe. It is my teacher, my parents, my best friend and lover. Who else would care for me, a 350 lb, 8th grade educated, 40 yr old man living with his mom (well, except for mom)?
btw, ladies, I'm still a virgin, can't get no safer than that.

Stacy The Peanut Queen said...

You mean it's possible to eat without the TV on? Really???? ;)

Growing up, we ate in the dining room and couldn't see the TV from there so we'd actually talk to each other. Now as an adult, my hubby and I eat at the table...but the TV is ALWAYS on. As for what we eat...well, it's usually a pretty well rounded meat, one starch, one veggie...and not too much of each one.

goddess said...

I really worry about the obesity problem in this country. As a child we always had family dinner. I spent my childhood climbing trees, riding bikes and running through corn fields. And I still got fat. My students now literally eat a bag of hot cheetos for lunch and spend the whole evening and weekend playing video games. I'm seriously afraid.

Since being over weight lowers your sex drive, maybe our country will solve this problem in a few generations when the population starts to seriously drop.

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