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Food and TV: Not a Healthy Mix

​TV is an important part of our lives—it entertains us and has much to teach. But too much TV and food advertising can make eating right very difficult. Limiting TV time can help your child stay on the path to healthy living. Here’s how.

TV and Babies

Studies have shown that excessive TV watching is associated with obesity and overweight in children. The best way to avoid this is to limit how much TV your baby watches. See Why to Avoid TV Before Age 2.

What You Can Do

  • Do not place your baby in front of the TV. TV isn’t appropriate for children younger than 2 years because it takes time away from real interactions with you and other family members.
  • Avoid using the TV as a babysitter. Instead, look for ways to interact with your child face to face.

TV and the Family Meal

There is plenty of unconscious eating that can take place in front of the TV. It’s easy for kids to simply eat their way from one program to the next. Distracted by the TV, they’ll often eat long beyond when they’re full. The result? Weight gain.

What You Can Do

  • Set a no-TV rule during meals.
  • Serve your meals at the dining room or kitchen table with other family members as often as possible. Meal time is an important time for family conversations and sharing the day’s experiences without the TV getting in the way.

TV and Obesity

Here’s another important reason to limit your child’s TV watching: the steady stream of ads for high-sugar, high-fat foods aimed directly at children. Studies have shown that children who watch a lot of TV have a greater likelihood of becoming obese. The commercials targeted at children are one of the reasons why.

What You Can Do

  • Do not allow children younger than 2 years to watch TV.
  • Limit TV watching (as well as video and computer game playing) to 1 to 2 hours a day for older children.
  • Talk about the ads your child sees on TV and explain how they encourage unhealthy eating.
  • Stay strong when your child begs for the latest food or candy shown on TV.
  • Explain why you think it’s not healthy for him or her.


Even if your child doesn’t eat in front of the TV, you still need to restrict his or her TV watching. A daily limit of TV viewing and playing computer or video games should not exceed 1 to 2 hours.

Additional Information

Sandra G. Hassink, MD, FAAP
Last Updated
Pediatric Obesity: Prevention, Intervention, and Treatment Strategies for Primary Care (Copyright © 2014 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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