Lifelong eating habits often are learned early. Eating while watching TV may become a habit for your young child and lead to unhealthy eating habits, according to LSU AgCenter nutritionist Dr. Beth Reames.
“Research suggests that kids may consume more calories while watching TV or crave foods advertised on TV,” Reames says.
Turning off TV and tuning into each other at mealtime can be positive for both children and adults, according to the nutritionist. “Sharing food and conversation around the table is important for children,” Reames says, adding, “Meals eaten together provide a time to enjoy being with other family members and to learn about food.”
The nutritionist suggests ways to help encourage young children to eat at the table:
– Plan regular mealtimes that allow family members to eat together. Allow children to choose their favorite TV programs to watch outside of family mealtimes. Let children know you are willing to change mealtime occasionally to let them watch a special program.
– Spark your children's interest in meals by including them in the planning and preparation. Participation helps children feel good about themselves and learn about important nutrients and foods at the same time.
– Let children help set the table with colorful plates and decorations to make mealtime fun. Try to make mealtime pleasant and relaxed. Be patient, casual and set a good example by saying nice things about food, encouraging friendly conversations and practicing good manners.
Reames offers additional tips to help children learn good eating habits that will last a lifetime; start each day with a good breakfast; eat three meals a day; eat a variety of foods; eat nutritious snacks between meals; enjoy eating together as a family; try to make mealtimes pleasant and relaxed; help plan and prepare meals; drink milk with meals; eat lots of vegetables and fruits; chew food well; eat until full, and then stop eating.
Editor: Mark Claesgens
The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture