We’ve all been guilty of mindless munching when sitting in front of the TV, but research from Yale University suggests that what you watch may impact how much you eat.
In the study, children and adults were shown a half hour of television with different sets of advertising in each. Children aged 7 to 11 years who watched commercials for food ate 45 percent more snack food than the children who were shown the same programming but with commercials that didn’t feature food. The children in the study didn’t go looking for the food that was advertised, but were interested in any snack food.
Among adults, those who saw advertisements for unhealthy snack food ate significantly more than those who saw spots for healthy food or good nutrition. The really bad news? Those habits continued even after the television was off.
Consumer and health groups that are concerned with America’s obesity epidemic—particularly among children—endorse government regulation of food advertising during children’s programming. But many food marketers already self-regulate. Frito-Lay, manufacturer of Doritos, Lay’s, Ruffles, Cheetos and Fritos, does not advertise at all during children’s programming, and General Mills, which makes Trix, Lucky Charms and other cereals, only advertises products with fewer than 175 calories and 12 grams of sugar per serving.
Both companies have joined the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative, a voluntary group of companies that have pledged to shift the mix of advertising to children to include messages about healthy eating. Other members include McDonald’s, Burger King, Coca-Cola, Kellogg’s and Hershey.
Take note of what is being advertised when your kids watch TV. If there’s too much food advertising, consider turning the TV off or tuning in another program. Be ready to counter triggered snacking with healthy options like yogurt and vegetables.
And watch your own compulsive eating, too. Be aware of hunger triggers that have nothing to do with hunger like boredom, restlessness, and food smells. And you can now add food advertising to that list.
When reaching for the chips, ask yourself, “Am I really hungry?” If the answer is no, skip the snack, but also try to identify the trigger so that you’re aware of it the next time it tries to sabotage your success. Knowing why you want to eat helps you get control of your snacking triggers.
For information and to find a physician in the mountains who can help with nutritional planning, contact Mountains Community Hospital at (909) 336-3651. Mountains Community Hospital is located at 29191 Hospital Road in Lake Arrowhead.