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South Texas Living

Healthy Living: Take the TV out of your kid's room!

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Charles Stuart Platkin, PhD.
April 9, 2014 | 3,675 views | Post a comment

It makes sense -- having a TV in the bedroom leads to sedentary behavior, and, therefore, to weight gain. A recent study conducted by researchers from the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth “found that adolescents with a TV in their bedroom gained about 1 extra pound a year, compared to those without one, even after accounting for hours of TV watched each day and socioeconomic factors.” According to the researchers, about half of all adolescents have a television in their room.

In another study appearing in the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics, researchers at Iowa State University found that when you limit television and computer screen time and content “children get more sleep, do better in school, behave better, and see other health benefits.” The study doesn’t specify how much time is less time; however, it does state that children are typically in front of a screen for more than 40 hours a week. Suggestion: Monitor how many hours your children are in front of the screen and reduce the time by at least 10 percent.

Size does matter when it comes to cereal flakes

You are likely to eat more breakfast cereal, by weight and calories, when flake size is reduced, according to Barbara Rolls, a nutrition professor at Pennsylvania State University. “The researchers tested the influence of food volume on calorie intake by systematically reducing the flake size of a breakfast cereal with a rolling pin so that the cereal was more compact and the same weight filled a smaller volume. The research showed that as flake size was reduced, subjects poured a smaller volume of cereal, but still took a significantly greater amount by weight and energy content. Despite these differences, subjects estimated that they had taken a similar number of calories of all versions of the cereal. They ate most of the cereal they took, so as flake size was reduced, breakfast energy intake increased.”

The bottom line: Keep a close watch on cereals that come in smaller pieces, and keep in mind that you’re probably underestimating how much you actually eat.

Happy thoughts lead to fewer calories

According to research published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, when you’re in a bad mood you tend to indulge in unhealthy foods, and when you’re in a good mood you tend to eat healthier. “Individuals in a negative mood prefer indulgent foods to healthy foods because a negative mood invokes proximal, concrete construal (something imminent occurring; e.g., you have to work on a project with a peer you dislike), which puts more weight on immediate concerns such as mood repair and the affective benefits of foods such as taste and sensory experiences. In contrast, individuals in a positive mood prefer healthy foods to indulgent foods because a positive mood invokes distal, abstract construal (something distant, less precise and in the future; e.g., the summer is coming and you know things in general will be more enjoyable) which puts more weight on long-term, higher-level benefits of foods such as health and well-being.”

The researchers believe that if you actually think of something “happy or grateful” before a meal you will eat less and eat healthier.

Diet drinks get another ding

It’s not just sugary drinks that cause problems -- more and more research is demonstrating that diet soda is linked to increased risk of disease. The latest: “It appears healthy postmenopausal women who drink two or more diet drinks a day may be more likely to have a heart attack, stroke, or other cardiovascular problems, according to research to be presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 63rd annual Scientific Session. “In fact, compared to women who never or only rarely consume diet drinks, those who consumed two or more a day were 30 percent more likely to suffer a cardiovascular event and 50 percent more likely to die from related disease,” according to the study authors.

Even very young kids need sleep to stay healthy and eat less

Yet another study reports that children need lots of sleep to stay healthy. When young children don’t get enough sleep they tend to eat more calories. The study, published in the International Journal of Obesity, found that 16-month-old children who slept less than 10 hours each day consumed on average 105 calories more per day than children who slept more than 13 hours. This is an increase of about 10 percent, from 982 calories to 1,087 calories. “Associations between eating, weight, and sleep have been reported previously in older children and adults, but the study is the first to directly link sleep to energy intake in children under the age of 3 years.”

Beer may reduce harmful substances in grilled meat

According to research reported in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, marinating pork for four hours in Pilsner beer, non-alcoholic Pilsner beer, or a black beer ale before cooking it well-done on a charcoal grill may reduce harmful substances created from the grilling process. “Black beer had the strongest effect, reducing the levels of eight major PAHs by more than half compared with unmarinated pork.” Probably a better idea not to burn your food on the grill, and make sure to ask for IDs at your family barbecue if you decide to use this method.

Seven servings of fruits and vegetables daily save you

Researchers at University College London used the Health Survey for England to study the eating habits of 65,226 people representative of the English population between 2001 and 2013, and found that the more fruit and vegetables they ate, the less likely they were to die at any age.

According to the study, “eating seven or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day reduces your risk of death at any point in time by 42 percent compared to eating less than one portion.”

Charles Platkin, Ph.D., is a nutrition and public health advocate and founder of

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