Chew on This: Kids Eating Better at School but Worse at Home
Moore says she does allow her kids to watch television while they eat breakfast, but is very careful about what she serves them.
That said, "there are times when it is entirely appropriate for children to decompress in front of the television -- such as after a long day at school or when it is raining out," she says. "That's when I make something called a 'pupu platter' -- a large serving plate with a different sections of healthy foods such as sliced-up carrots, cherry tomatoes, grapes, cut-up apples, and other easy finger foods which are a pleasure to eat in front of the television."
She will also toss in pretzels, mini rice cakes, or Ritz Bits as treats. "It's great because the kids get their fruits and vegetables so I don't have to stress about it during dinner," she says.
None of this is to say that mealtime TV is all bad, says Davida Kleinman, RD, a nutritionist in Doylestown, Pa., and also a mom.
"Television creates a diversion and sometimes kids need that," she says.
And some television shows such as Barney or Sesame Street actually teach kids about good nutrition, she points out.
"When it comes to eating right, kids need a good role model," she says. Parents make the best role models, she says, "but sometimes characters on television shows can also provide guidance."
Setting a schedule -- and sticking to it -- can also instill good eating habits, she says. "It's important to eat three meals a day and two to three snacks," she tells WebMD. " Eating on the run creates opportunities for fast food and fatty, sugary snacks."
Scheduling can be tricky when it comes to kids eating at school, Kleinman says. "A lot of schools have crazy times when kids are eating lunch, such as 10 or 11 a.m., and when the kids get home, they're famished," she says.
If that's the case where your children go to school, try to pack healthy snacks to get them through mid-afternoon, and make sure they have a healthy breakfast, she says.