Watching too much TV doesn't just make moms and dads couch potatoes - it makes them feed their kids more junk food, a brand-new study found.
Researchers at the University of Michigan interviewed more than 100 parents about all kinds of home-related stuff, including what their kids typically eat, and how often both they and the kids park themselves in front of the boob tube. Later, they also interviewed kids in various preschools to find out what they think the components of healthy meals should be. Then they compared all the data they collected to get a better sense of how family habits shape kids' diets and their attitudes toward eating.
The findings: As long as families have the money to spend on junk food, they'll buy a lot more of it if they habitually watch commercial TV (and the ads that go along with it). Not only that, but their young children will have disotred views on which foods are healthy, too.
It's a landmark finding because while past research has made the link between TV and obesity in childhood, no one's ever studied the connection for the preschool years, or studied the specific effect that standard TV, as opposed to the commercial-free kind has. The upshot? Keep an eye on what your kids watch—and what you watch, too. "Even though parents and other caregivers are the primary gatekeepers regarding young children's food intake, children are still learning about food as it relates to health from family, media, and other sources, and may use this knowledge later on to inform their decisions when parents or other adults aren't there to supervise them," said Kristen Harrison, one of the study's main authors.