Blog about Proactive Parenting

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Why do my kids crave horrible food?

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Generations ago, advertisers used to market to adults. They tried to sell their products on positive messages about the benefits, helpfulness, goodness, or superiority to convince buyers to choose their products against the competition.

How does advertising to children relate to horrible food?

Then marketers realized that it was more effective to advertise to children who wouldn’t be as concerned about the actual product’s benefits, helpfulness, goodness or superiority. It is easier to market to children because they can be swayed into desiring a product easily through emotional manipulation. And, children are with their parents all the time and can repeat their desire and request for the product ad nauseam. It is an effective and cheap strategy that borders on the edge of being unethical.

Sadly marketing to children is not limited to toys or activities anymore. Food manufactures have made children the target of heavy media advertising for nefarious foods. More than half of the foods that are advertised on television to children do not meet government nutritional guidelines. In an age where most western societies are battling to change the trend in overweight and obese children, this is a concerning issue. First, children do not fully understand what a balance diet consists of and therefore want the bright colored, playful food products they see. And second, the advertising is purposely placed where it will have the most impact – during children’s programming or on channels designed for children.

Children usually see 10-13 food-related TV advertisements daily and about half are specifically designed to target children. Unfortunately, 53% of the foods marketed specifically to children have too much sugar, salt or fat in them to be considered healthy. The products most frequently advertised to children are highly processed, contain few nutrients, and attract children with toys, cartoons, or well-known characters. More troubling is that 96% of food and beverage product advertisements seen by children on children’s television programs are for products that are unhealthy.

Obviously, when the advertisers are targeting children and their ads are placed in time slots or on channels that will connect with the targeted audience, children are going to be swayed into wanting unhealthy products. This can effect parents during shopping trips. Children may demand the products they have seen on TV.

What can parents do to help reduce the influence of marketing and lower their children’s demands for foods with low nutritional quality?

  1. Turn off the TV/computer/tablet. Marketing is highly specific and will pop up in children’s programs, on children’s websites, and on gaming sites. By limiting the time children are viewing these programs and sites, their exposure to unhealthy marketing is decreased.
  2. Exercise your purchasing power. Parents control what is purchased or not purchased during shopping trips. You can choose not to buy a product because you know that it isn’t healthy. It is okay that your child is upset they can’t have it. They don’t know how bad high sugar, high fat, and high salt foods are for them, but you do. Show them you care by not purchasing foods that are unhealthy for them.
  3. Offer these foods occasionally as “sometimes foods.” Sometimes foods are foods that we sometimes eat because we enjoy them but know that they are not good for our health. Indulging in sometimes foods once or twice a month can help avoid making certain foods feel forbidden, which can make them even more alluring to children. To know more about enjoying sometimes foods, please see my blog post called, “What really is the harm in eating processed foods”.
  4. Teach about good nutrition from an early age. Children can feel how different foods react in their bodies. They get all energetic from high sugar foods, they get drowsy from high fat foods, and they have sustainable energy from protein and whole grain foods. Use those sensations to describe why we eat some foods frequently and other foods rarely. This type of conversation lays the foundation for more complex discussions later into childhood and adolescence about a healthy diet and self-control.

It can seem that our children are being influenced everywhere into wanting something all the time. When food is a target, it can influence our children’s health and well-being. Therefore parents should be aware of the targeted marking that is occurring to influence children’s food preferences and how to counteract against those negative messages. Using the simple steps listed above can help families overcome the marketing and teach their children how to enjoy a wide variety of healthy foods with occasional indulgences.

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Saturday, 23 September 2017

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