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The Real TV-Dinner



How does watching TV influence your eating habits?  I think the findings in a recent study may surprise you. 


New research published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association shows that television ads for food may be skewing our decisions on what we eat in a very powerful way.  The average American watches more than 4 hours of TV each day – included in that 4 hour block is 72 minutes of commercial programming. 


After viewing 84 hours of prime-time and 12 hours of Saturday morning television, researchers planned a 2,000 calorie day diet containing ONLY foods that were advertised during that time.  And the results – a diet that exceeded the government recommendations of fat by 20 times and the daily recommendation of sugar intake by 25 times – almost one month’s worth of sugar in one day!  In addition, the diet provided less than half of the recommended servings of fruits, vegetables and dairy.


Can you recall the last time you saw a commercial for healthy ‘real’ foods?  (No – KFC ‘Grilled’ chicken doesn’t count!)


Last year, food makers in the US spent $11.3 BILLION dollars on marketing efforts, with only 2% of that total going towards nutritional education.  Combine the unhealthy foods with notoriously effective marketing campaigns and you have what the nutrition experts call a toxic environment – one that encourages inactivity and unhealthy food choices.


I know that a complete marketing overhaul is a little unrealistic – but on the bright side – the power of persuasion can work in positive ways.  If we promoted fresh fruits, vegetables and non-processed foods the way we did the junk, TV could actually provide a great outlet for encouraging healthy food choices.


An interesting closing thought from one of the lead researchers, “It’s the perennial question of whether these products are being advertised because we want them or because we want them because they are being advertised.  Where we come down on it is that it’s a little bit of both — and it’s a reinforcing cycle. But that cycle can be changed.”


What do you think?  Do you feel that commercials affect your eating habits?

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