Watching TV has become a routine part of most of our lives. Different sources report slightly different statistics on just how much TV we watch. Generally speaking adults tend to watch 2-3 hours of TV a day, with children watching more like 3-4 hours of TV a day. Many people like to eat while watching TV and my wife and I are no different. Like most people we live busy lives, jobs, kids, hobbies, etc., and watching 30 to 60 minutes of television before bed is one way we relax and unwind at night. When we watch TV, we tend to eat. For me, it usually starts with a large bowl of popcorn (we are popcorn addicts)! Then I often make a sandwich, when that’s gone I eat an ice cream cone, I’m somewhat health conscious so I usually have a piece of fruit, and top it off with a large bowl of cereal. Research supports the idea that we tend to eat more calories when we watch TV. Blass and colleagues (2006) did a study and reported that college students ate more pizza (36% more calories) and more macaroni and cheese (71% more calories) during a 30-minute meal while watching TV.
Also, consider the types of food people generally eat while watching TV. We often chose foods like pizza, chips, cookies, ice cream, etc., foods that are calorie dense, but not necessarily nutritionally dense. Very rarely will you find someone sitting down and gorging themselves on broccoli, asparagus, tofu, carrots, spinach, egg whites, and tomatoes while watching TV. What can you do to try and limit the number of calories you eat in front of the TV? If you eat some or all of your meals in front of the TV, turn it off! Try to make healthier choices, eat some cherries instead of the ice cream. Finally, if you must eat things like chips, put a serving or two on a plate and put the bag back in the cupboard. That will help keep you from mindlessly eating until you hit the bottom of the bag.
Blass E, Anderson D, Kirkorian H, Pempek T, Price I, Koleini F: On the road to obesity: Television viewing increases intake of high-density foods. Physiology and Behavior (2006), Vol 88, pps. 597-604.