Television Cancels Out Benefits of Family Dinners

Fewer fruits and vegetables served when the TV is on at mealtime

MONDAY, April 9 (HealthDay News) -- Families who eat dinner together are more likely to eat fruits and vegetables than those who do not, but the benefit is canceled out if the television is on during the mealtime, according to study findings published in the April issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

Eileen Fitzpatrick, M.P.H., R.D., of the Sage Colleges in Troy, N.Y., and colleagues conducted a study of 1,336 parents and guardians of children who were participants in New York's Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children.

When families ate dinner together they were 14 percent more likely to eat fruits and 15 percent more likely to eat vegetables. However, when the television was on during dinner, they were 5 percent less likely to eat fruits and 6 percent less likely to eat vegetables. The study also looked at the impact of family dinners and dinnertime television viewing on milk consumption, but found no impact from either factor.

"Family dinners and dinners without television on are independent predictors of servings of fruits or vegetables offered to preschool children. Because dietary habits and preferences are established early in life, parents should be counseled to promote family meal environments that support healthful eating," the authors conclude.

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