Children are reportedly being exposed to increasing levels of advertisements for unhealthy fast food and junk food. In November, researchers in the U.K. found that children are being exposed to up to 12 ads for junk food in an hour while watching family-friendly TV shows.
Children saw ads for foods like pizza, candy, and burgers during commercial breaks on shows including The Voice and The Simpsons.
Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health Nutrition Lead Professor Mary Fewtrell called the research a “grim reminder” of why child obesity statistics are so high.
“We know brand recognition influences children’s behaviors from as young as 18 months,” Fewtrell said.
Another study in 2016 showed a 30 percent increase in the number of unhealthy food ads that kids were exposed to from four years earlier.
“Unfortunately, when we look at the marketing of foods that children and adolescents see on TV, overall, it is overwhelmingly for unhealthy foods,” said the study’s co-author, Frances Fleming Milici, who is a research associate at the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity. “About two-thirds of food ads promoted fast foods, other restaurant foods, breakfast cereals, candy and snack foods. Mostly foods that (we know from other research) are high in sugar, fat and sodium.”
American food manufacturers and restaurants agreed to use nutrition information as a guideline for which children’s shows their ads would be able to run on, but that guideline applies only to television intended for kids under 12. Fleming Milici said that isn’t enough.
“The reality is that children under the age of 12 aren’t restricting their viewing to just child-directed TV,” she said. “And you’re certainly not helping kids 12 and over, who ― and I think most parents would agree ― are still in need of some protection.”
Another study from Canada found that internet ads were also exposing kids to unhealthy junk foods. The University of Ottawa found that 90 percent of online food ads were for processed foods and those with high levels of fat, sugar, and salt.
“Kids are going to these sites to play games and there are all these popups and banner ads that kids are seeing while they’re engaged in whatever activity they’re doing on that website,” said assistant professor Potvin Kent.
Try Eating Whole Foods With Your Kids!
In addition to trying to keep track of what your kids are seeing on TV and online, you can make a difference in their eating habits by giving them nutritious, healthy options for snacks and meals.
Take a look at these 25 Recipes You Can Feel Good About Giving Your Kids to start with. There’s a huge variety of healthy foods you can give your kids without high levels of sugars, salt, and fat.
You can also get your kids involved with cooking! Even something as simple as helping to stir can get kids engaged with food and excited for a nourishing meal. Check out this guide on How to Get Kids Involved in the Kitchen and Why It’s Important.
You can also make fun recipes that kids will love that incorporate healthier ingredients and whole foods. It’s a slightly sneaky way to get more fruits and veggies into kids’ diets, but it shows how healthy foods can still be delicious.
To start with, try this Creamy Butternut Mac and Cheese for a nutritious alternative take on traditional mac and cheese. And these Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream Cupcakes make a tasty, fun dessert with the health benefits of avocado and flax.
Curious about more kid-friendly plant-based recipes like these Crispy Cauliflower Nuggets? Try downloading the Food Monster App! With over 10,000 recipes, it’s available for both Android and iPhone, and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. Full of allergy-friendly recipes, subscribers gain access to new recipes every day. Check it out!
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