TV Dinners Create a Mized Message

April 11, 2007 ( - Some family time around the dinner table can be a good thing - just don't watch the television at the same time.

That’s the uptake from a new study that found, at least in low-income families with preschool children, the positive effect of eating dinner as a family tends to be negated by watching television at the same time.

“When you have the television on, people are essentially eating alone,” said Arlene Spark, associate professor of nutrition at Hunter College in New York City, according to HealthNet News.

The findings essentially corroborate previous research that has found, among other things, that preschoolers who spend more time glued to the television have worse diets and that families dining together tend to have better eating habits.

Eating More, Eating Better?

Apparently when that TV is on, we’re just not paying attention to what we eat – and how much we are eating. But when we eat with family, we tend to eat better.

For this study, more than 1,300 parents or guardians of children participating in New York’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children were surveyed on how many days a week the family ate dinner together, the number of days each week the TV was turned on during dinner, and how often fruits and vegetables were served.

More fruits and vegetables were served on the nights families ate dinner as a unit – however, those servings decreased each night the TV was turned on during the meal.

The study also found that:

  • Hispanic and black parents reported having the television on during dinner more often than white parents.
  • Hispanic and white families tended to eat together more often than black families.
  • The television was turned on more often in families in which the parent had less than a high school education.