It’s National Turn Off the TV Week: Do It For Healthy Eating’s Sake

Apr 23, 2009 by

Campaign_DigitalDetoxWeek Turning off the TV, not just this week but every week, is one of the best moves parents can make if they hope to get their children in the habit of healthy eating. For a child who watches more than an infinitesimal amount of TV, efforts to build healthy eating habits may well be futile.

Of course we all know, whether we act on that knowledge or not, that the more we sit in front of the TV, the higher our risk of being overweight.

But the problem is not simply that we are physically inactive as we sit there, when we could be playing outdoors. Passive TV viewing, instead of working up our healthy appetite through activity, also gives us an unhealthy urge to mindlessly snack. But it’s still much bigger than that.

TV and its sponsors are truly out to get us concerning our children’s eating habits. TV is an all-out, direct attack on health and good eating. It counteracts all our attempts to teach a love of healthy foods.

Food ads on TV are “gastronomic pornography,” says Mireille Guiliano, author of French Women Don’t Get Fat.  It “makes one think about eating and gets one’s gastric juices flowing, triggering the release of insulin, lowering one’s blood sugar, and stimulating food cravings.”

These cravings are not just for any foods, mind you. The ads on TV entice us to the idol worship of fast foods, junk foods, soda, sugary breakfast cereals and snacks, all manner of over-processed, manufactured, industrial, empty, imitation edibles.  When was the last time you saw a commercial about fresh fruit or vegetables or other Real Foods?

 And boy, those junk foods sure do look good. Even stalwart me, my mouth waters when I see those ads. A steady diet of TV advertising feeds a child’s cravings for harmful junk (which isn’t even near as tasty as they make it appear). Like conventional porn, it tends to ruin us for the real thing. In just 30 seconds, the emotional effects of weeks of good home cooking and happy vegetable eating can be undone. Vulnerable to advertisers’ claims, kids tend to believe what they see.  They’re sitting ducks for the exploitation of junk food advertisers.  Young kids need to be protected until they’re old enough to understand the lies they’re being fed. We all need to minimize our exposure, at least I do.

A double-edged sword, TV not only stimulates our appetite for bad foods, but it also distracts us from good eating and robs us of quality of life. Time spent in front of the TV in the evenings is time that would be better spent cooking and then together eating as a family around the table. TV drains our energy, while the creativity of cooking and interacting with our family can energize and refresh us.

TV not only works against our best efforts to feed our children (and ourselves) well, but it also takes our daily opportunity to live actively and get to know our children down the tubes.

© French Kids Don’t Get Fat / Anna Migeon  / 21 April 2009 / All rights reserved