Researchers asked the children how much TV they watched; how often they snacked while watching; how often they ate fruits, vegetables and candy and drank soda; and how often they skipped breakfast.
The survey uncovered a variety of differences by sex, age and race — for example, girls watched slightly less than boys, older children ate fast food more often, and white children were more likely to eat fruits and vegetables daily.
But over all, after controlling for other factors, viewing time among the children was associated with lower odds of eating fruits and vegetables daily and higher odds of skipping breakfast, consuming candy and sugar-sweetened soda, and eating in fast-food restaurants.
Adjusting for snacking while watching TV did not change the associations, leading the researchers to suggest that broadcast advertising influences eating choices even when children are away from the television.
"There is something parents can do," said Dr. Ronald J. Iannotti, an author of the study. "Limit TV time, and make sure healthy snacks, particularly fruits, are available." The study appeared in the May issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.
Image: Girl snacking and watching TV, via Shutterstock.