Public Health Nutrition

Research Paper

Nutrition and body weights of Canadian children watching television and eating while watching television

Tina Lianga1, Stefan Kuhlea1 and Paul J Veugelersa1 c1

a1 School of Public Health, Population Health Intervention Research Unit, University of Alberta, 6-50 University Terrace, 8303-112 Street, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, T6G 2T4


Objective To examine whether eating while watching television poses a risk for poor nutrition and excess body weight over and above that of time spent watching television.

Design We analysed data of grade 5 students participating in a comprehensive population-based survey in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia. This survey included the Harvard’s Youth Food Frequency Questionnaire, students’ height and weight measurements, and a parent survey. We applied multivariable linear and logistic random effects models to quantify the associations of watching television and eating while watching television with diet quality and body weight.

Setting The province of Nova Scotia, Canada.

Subjects Grade 5 students (n 4966).

Results Eating supper while watching television negatively affected the consumption of fruits and vegetables and overall diet quality. More frequent supper while watching television was associated with more soft drink consumption, a higher percentage energy intake from sugar out of total energy from carbohydrate, a higher percentage energy intake from fat, and a higher percentage energy intake from snack food. These associations appeared independent of time children spent watching television. Both watching television and eating while watching television were positively and independently associated with overweight.

Conclusions Our observations suggest that both sedentary behaviours from time spent watching television as well as poor nutrition as a result of eating while watching television contribute to overweight in children. They justify current health promotion targeting time spent watching television and call for promotion of family meals as a means to avoid eating in front of the television.

(Received September 05 2008)

(Accepted February 19 2009)

(Online publication May 01 2009)


c1 Corresponding author: Email