Want healthy kids?
Step #1: Turn off the TV

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Co-author of Chicken Soup for the Gardener's Soul


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television, children, health, obesity, TVWhile growing up, we weren't allowed to watch much TV. Mom said it dampened a child's creativity and made kids lazy--mentally and physically. That was back in the 1950s. Since then, thousands of studies have looked at how TV affects kids' grades, sleep, behavior, and health.

TV has become a public health issue. First of all, kids get lots of information about health from TV, much of it from ads. And children tend to believe what the ads say, even though they might be untrue or unbalanced. Don't believe it? The next time you get tired of hearing your children beg for junk food, think about all those TV commercials.

On average, kids spend nearly four hours a day watching television, DVDs and videos. This can lead to childhood obesity and compromised health, because children who watch TV are more likely to be inactive and tend to snack while watching TV.

What I'm getting at, is something my Mom realized a half a century ago: if you want your kids to be healthy and to eat healthy, start by turning off the TV, or at the very least, limit the amount of watching time to one hour or less a day. If your kids want a snack, give them:

  • Celery, snap peas or carrot sticks with low fat dip
  • Frozen yogurt or yogurt-fruit pops
  • Oatmeal-raisin-almond cookies (homemade are best!)
  • Apples or pears--with or without peanut butter
  • Oranges
  • Healthy sandwiches made with whole grain bread
  • Cantaloupe and carrots--foods that are rich in beta-carotene for improving your child's eyesight!
  • Whole grain crackers
  • Hummus and pita wedges
  • Yogurt parfait with low-fat yogurt and fruit
  • Fruit smoothie made with fresh fruit, yogurt, and juice
  • Sliced tomato with mozzarella cheese
  • Melon cubes with a slice of turkey
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Low-fat yogurt with berries and almonds
  • "Light" popcorn with grated parmesan cheese
  • Bowl of low or no-sugar cereal with milk
  • Banana slices with peanut butter

If there's a fuss, avoid arguments about junk food by not bringing them into the house in the first place. Leave the candy, soft drinks, chips, and cookies at the store. And if turning off the tube sparks a riot, replace TV watching with activities like bike riding, hopscotch (remember hopscotch?), walking the dog, reading or planting pea, sunflower and carrot seeds in the garden.

In all fairness, TV has its good sides with educational and entertaining programming. I certainly had my fill of cartoons and Walt Disney. And I like to think my love for carrots and spinach came from Bugs Bunny and Popeye, though the jury's still out as to how TV watching affected me.

Mom, what do you think? Mom?

You might also be interested in:


What do I need to know about children and TV?
University of Michigan Health Systems

The Smart Parent's Guide to Kid's TV--from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)


"Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder", by Richard Louv

"Sharing Nature With Children" (Sharing Nature Series) by Joseph Bharat Cornell

"The Youth Gardening Book," published by National Gardening Association

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garden newsletter, recipes, booksMarion Owen, organic gardener




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