The association of TV viewing during dinner meals with quality of dietary intake and BMI z-scores among low income, ethnic minority preschool children

Appetite. 2019 Sep 1;140:231-238. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2019.05.023. Epub 2019 May 20.


Background: TV viewing has been associated with children's weight status and is thought to be mediated mostly through children's dietary intake. However, the mechanisms underlying this association are not understood.

Objective: Assess the associations of having the TV on and the child watching TV during dinners with the dietary quality consumed at that meal and with the child's weight status.

Methods: Secondary analysis of a directly-observed study of 144 preschool-aged African American and Hispanic, low-income children's dinner meals. Three home dinners were video recorded per child (428 meals observed) and what children were served and consumed measured. The Healthy Eating Index-2010 assessed dietary quality of dinners served and consumed. Child height and weight were measured and parents completed questionnaires. Videos were coded for whether the TV was on and the proportion of the dinner the child watched TV. Mixed models with meal observations nested within child assessed the associations.

Results: 77% of children consumed at least one dinner with the TV on. The proportion of the meal the child watched TV was not associated with lower dietary quality consumed. TV on was associated with the dietary quality consumed only in the fully adjusted model (p < 0.05). The dietary quality of dinner served was most strongly associated with the dietary quality consumed (p < 0.0001). Neither having the TV on nor child watching the TV while eating were associated with the child's BMI z-score.

Conclusion: Having the TV on during meals was common, but watching TV during the meal was not associated with the dietary quality of what the children consumed. Further controlled studies should evaluate if turning the TV off during dinner directly improves the dietary quality children consume at that meal.

Keywords: African American; Dietary quality; Hispanic; Meals; Preschool child; TV viewing.

Publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Black or African American / psychology
  • Body Mass Index
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diet, Healthy / ethnology
  • Diet, Healthy / psychology
  • Diet, Healthy / statistics & numerical data*
  • Feeding Behavior / ethnology
  • Feeding Behavior / psychology*
  • Female
  • Hispanic or Latino / psychology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Meals / ethnology
  • Meals / psychology
  • Minority Groups / psychology*
  • Poverty / ethnology
  • Poverty / psychology*
  • Television / statistics & numerical data*
  • Texas