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TV confuses children about which foods are healthy, new study finds

mins (referring to celery)" or "It has cheese, cheese is made from milk, and milk is good" (cottage cheese).

Examples of non-nutritional reasoning: "It's chewy" (wheat bread) and "My brother hates it" (spinach).

The children also displayed moderate nutritional reasoning. "But as the study shows, this number decreases with heavier TV viewing, especially for the choices involving fat-free and diet labels."

One interesting finding was that children's nutritional reasoning was "largely independent of their nutritional knowledge."

For example, a second-grade boy who chose jelly over peanut butter explained that he chose jelly because "it has fruit in it and just a little sugar because sugar is bad." "Although his answer was incorrect, his reasoning was nutritional," Harrison said. Conversely, a third-grade girl who chose cottage cheese over fat-free ice cream said she did so because "it has less calories."

"Although her answer was correct, her reasoning reflected the food's potential for weight loss rather than its utility for helping her grow up strong and healthy."

The reasoning that a food does not contain fat or has fewer calories may appear to be nutritional in nature, Harrison said, "but a lack of fat and calories will not in itself help a child grow up strong and healthy. We know that many American children are consuming too much fat and too many calories, but replacing the nutrient-dense foods in their diets with low-fat, low-calorie items like rice cakes and diet soda does them a disservice by depriving their bodies of the whole-food nutrients needed for growth."

The ideal compromise, Harrison said, would be a diet of foods that are rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber, with moderate levels of fat and calories. There is a "crucial difference between foods that don't contain 'bad-for-you' ingredients and foods that do contain 'good-for-you' ingredients."

Harrison said that whenever she presents t
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Contact: Andrea Lynn, Humanities Editor
andreal@uiuc.edu
217-333-2177
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
8-Jun-2005


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