Tag Archives: junk food

5 Ways to Combat Junk Food Ads Tempting Your Kids

Boy Begging for Candy (Generic Candy Bag)As we wrote in an earlier blog post, parents are constantly fending off their children’s incessant requests for chips, fruit snacks, sugary cereals, soda, and other unhealthy, nutrient-poor food they see advertised on TV, in grocery stores, and other kid-accessible places.

Given this bombardment, most parents give in to “pester power” or “the nag factor” at some point, what Johns Hopkins University researchers call “the tendency of children, who are bombarded with marketers’ messages, to unrelentingly request advertised items.”

What can parents do, especially in a society that tends to put the burden of junk food on caregivers rather than the corporations who run the advertisements and the celebrities who agree to sponsorships? Here are some suggestions:

• Reduce kids’ exposure to ads. Limit television, cell phone, and computer use, for instance.

• Practice healthy eating behaviors at home, and show children that healthy food can also taste good.

• Work with other parents, schools, and communities to regulate kids’ exposure to junk food. Schools across the country have put healthy lunch programs in place and limited the availability of nutrient-poor foods. Many schools prohibit sales of sugary beverages and have replaced them with healthy drinks, such as water and other no calorie beverages.

• Support laws and policies that limit junk food and promote incentives for healthy foods, as the World Health Organization recently suggested. Some experts have even proposed regulating fast food like alcohol, and research has found nations with stronger government regulation have lower rates of fast food purchases and body mass index levels.

• Change the culture. Speak out against this kind of marketing and point out that parents should not be blamed for all of their children’s food choices, as food and beverage companies play a major role in the products kids see on TV, which foods they request from their parents, and what they buy with their spare change or allowance after school. Corporations are particularly sensitive to cultural change and will respond if they see bad media attention as a business threat.

At the end of the day, a treat is not bad every once in awhile, but today’s children are at risk of becoming the first generation to live shorter lives than their parents. Presently, one-third of children in America are overweight or obese, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This puts them at risk for chronic illnesses later in life, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and sleep apnea. If our kids actually ate all of the junk food and beverages purveyors marketed to them, they would not live the healthy and productive lives we want them to live.

NYULMC-2011_2CP_RGB_300dpiFrom the Real Experts at NYU Langone Medical Center:

Marie Bragg, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Population Health at NYU School of Medicine and NYU Langone Medical Center and at the NYU Global Institute of Public Health

 Elaine Meyer, M.S., senior communications specialist in the Department of Population Health at NYU School of Medicine and NYU Langone Medical Center

 

 

Why Kids Can’t Resist Unhealthy Foods at the Grocery Store

Adorable girl sit with set of good in shopping cart in supermarketParents who take their kids to the grocery store are probably used to fending off incessant requests for chips, fruit snacks, sugary cereals, soda, and other unhealthy, nutrient-poor food. This perennial battle is taken for granted today—it’s as much a part of raising children as is changing diapers or reading bedtime stories. But there’s reason to think kids wouldn’t want junk food so much if marketers didn’t target them so heavily.

Take the grocery store. A study by Dr. Brian Wansink and colleagues at Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab looked at 65 cereals, finding those marketed at kids are placed half as high on grocery store shelves as cereals marketed to adults. They even found that the eyes of characters on cereal boxes, like Cap’n’Crunch and Scooby Doo, are pointed downward to make eye contact with kids, as Dr. Wansink shows in a video. “It looks more trustworthy and increases your likelihood of purchasing things,” he says.

Marketing food to kids is a $2.1 billion industry, the vast majority of it for fast food products, carbonated beverages, cereal, and candy, according to a 2012 Federal Trade Commission report. (Interestingly the foods marketed to kids are a lot less healthy on the whole than those marketed at adults).

Substantial research has found that marketing heavily influences what people choose to purchase and eat. One study found children consumed 45 percent more snack food after watching food advertising compared to those who didn’t view these kinds of ads. This is highly concerning given that one-third of children in America are overweight or obese, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, putting them at risk for chronic illnesses later in life, like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and sleep apnea.

Children are bombarded with all kinds of advertising—TV commercials, giveaways, digital media communication through cell phone, emails, and websites. As the Public Health Law Center puts it, “The means by which these products are marketed are limited only by the creativity of food marketers.”

Marketing junk food with popular children’s characters and celebrities are common tactics by purveyors. Ironically, the celebrities we think of as at the pinnacle of health are some of the worst offenders. Of the ads they have made for food, professional athletes like Peyton Manning, LeBron James, and Serena Williams primarily endorse foods that are energy-dense and nutrient-poor, and the only other products they market more than food are sporting goods, according to a 2013 study by Dr. Bragg and colleagues.

In a future blog entry, we’ll tell you what you can do about all of the ads targeted at your kids.

NYULMC-2011_2CP_RGB_300dpiFrom the Real Experts at NYU Langone Medical Center:

Marie Bragg, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Population Health at NYU School of Medicine and NYU Langone Medical Center and at the NYU Global Institute of Public Health

 Elaine Meyer, M.S., senior communications specialist in the Department of Population Health at NYU School of Medicine and NYU Langone Medical Center