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

Teresia M. O'Connor, Cindy Elias, Ralf Richard Thompson, Katherine R. Arlinghaus, Kristin Vollrath, Daphne C. Hernandez, Thomas G. Power, Sheryl O. Hughes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)231-238
Number of pages8
StatePublished - Sep 1 2019
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding for this project was supported by the United States Department of Agriculture grant # USDA 2006-55215-16696 . This work is also a publication of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service (USDA/ARS) Children's Nutrition Research Center, Department of Pediatrics, Baylor College of Medicine (Houston, TX) funded in part by the USDA/ARS (Cooperative Agreement 3092-51000-058-00D ). The contents of this publication do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the USDA, nor does the mention of trade names, commercial products or organizations imply endorsement from the US government.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Elsevier Ltd


  • African American
  • Dietary quality
  • Hispanic
  • Meals
  • Preschool child
  • TV viewing


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