A new study has found teenagers who watch more TV also tend to eat more junk food—and these poor diet choices follow them into adulthood.

Researchers tracked 2,000 high school students over a period of at least five years. The researchers found that those who watched more than five hours of TV every day were likely to have poor diets as young adults. These young adults tended to eat fewer fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. They filled the gap in their diet with more fried foods, fast food, and sugary drinks.

Researchers also noticed that the patterns became more pronounced as the children grew older. Children transitioning to young adulthood had worse diets than did children transitioning from middle school to high school age.

Researchers believe that these trends might be caused by two factors. First, transition periods from middle school to high school and from high school to young adulthood are critical times to practice good eating behaviors. Second, teenagers might discount the importance of healthy eating because the actors in TV junk food ads targeted to teenagers usually do not look unhealthy or overweight.

To help your children have a healthy childhood and a healthy future, the American Pediatrics Association recommends that children watch no more than one to two hours of TV per day, and that children under age two not watch any at all. You can easily cut down on the amount of TV your children watch by following a few steps:

– Turn off the TV at dinner.
– Turn the TV off during homework time.
– Turn the TV off when there is not anything on that you actually want to watch.
– Make your child’s bedroom a TV-free zone.
– Use TV-watching as a reward.
– Help your children brainstorm other activities they could do rather than watch TV.

It is also recommended that your children eat a healthy diet and develop a pattern of healthy eating. The following guidelines might help you incorporate more healthy foods into your children’s diet.

– Have plenty of fruits and vegetables in the house, and use them as snacks instead of unhealthier foods.
– Read the labels on foods you buy, and teach your children to understand nutrition information too.
– Model good eating behavior for your children.

If you help your children make wise TV and food choices, they are less likely to carry poor diet choices—and related poor health—into adulthood.

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