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Overcoming Obstacles to Having Kids Eat Healthier Food

Posted on Jul 27, 2011 by Maggie LaBarbera

Eating Healthy with Kids Guide | Food Shopping Tips | Handling Food Marketing Tactics Kids-fun-nutrition-games-foodsObstacles to eating healthier from food marketing to kids to the time crunch factor- we've got the facts and practical steps to help your kids eat healthier.

As a parent it is increasingly difficult to push against the millions of dollars spent on marketing food to kids and the time crunch of our fast paced society to guide our kids to make healthy food choices.

There has been increasing media attention about junk food marketing to kids recently. It's about time! Time for Kids reported a study in 1997 that, " Children ages 8-12 were found to see the most TV food ads. They watch about 7,600 of them a year. Teens see about 6,000 food ads a year, and children ages 2-7 see about 4,400 a year."  In 1999 the Yale Rudd Center did a study on marketing high sugar cereals to kids.

It's not just TV- new media games and mobile technology are being used to reach kids, The Robert Woods Johnson Foundation reports.

Here's some recent headlines about kids and food marketing:

TV Food Ads do Boost Kids Appetites

Study Finds TV Food Advertising Increases Children's Preference for Unhealthy Foods

Impact of Food Advertising on Childhood Obesity

Docs Want Fast Food Ads Banned from Kids Shows

Online Games Marketing Food to Kids It's a relief to know there is media attention and many parents and advocates are working to change food marketing policies directed to children, but change takes time.... Most parents want to to know, what are some practical steps that can be taken right now to guide your child to more healthful choices and to combat unhealthy food marketing

We've rounded up some actions and resources.

Here's a few guidelines and suggestions for eating healthier from our website- Nourish Interactive    printable version of tips

You may want to pick one healthy change and try it for a few weeks with your family, then gradually add new healthy steps over time.

✰ Read food labels and teach your kids how to read food labels Here's a guide about Food Labels (Spanish) for parents Fun learning and activity pages to teach kids about Food Labels printables (Spanish) Ride the Food Label online game (Spanish) tutorial

✰ Be a role model eating balanced meals with variety and being active, we've heard this before, it's overused I know! Try making one small change and talk to your child about why you are making this healthy change.

✰ Get the facts about unhealthy marketing to kids and discuss advertising with your kids

✰ Teach kids about the food groups and making balanced meals with the new MyPlate

✰ Plan meals and healthy snacks for a few days or the week before you go grocery shopping

✰ Keep in mind that kids will eat what's in the house, so choose foods wisely when making your grocery list and food shopping

✰ Consider setting a house rule that no food with characters is allowed in the house

✰ Encourage your kids to drink more water

✰ Most of us are short on time to prepare meals- try quick healthy meals like stir-fry,  salads with some added protein, or even breakfast food for dinner!

✰ Try pre-making some meals and storing them in the freezer- when you need a meal, thaw it and heat it up

✰ Prepare some fruits and vegetables by washing and cutting them, then store them in the fridge for easy healthy snacks to grab

✰ Have nuts*, seeds, whole grain breads, pasta and crackers and low-fat cheese, yogurts, and lean proteins on hand to use as ingredients for making meals or as snack food. (* be aware of nut allergies)

✰ Avoid white enriched flour grains- look for breads and pasta that say stone-ground or whole grain

✰ Add a bit of wheat germ or ground flax to baked goods, burgers, yogurt, and cereal for added fiber and nutrients

✰ Serve healthy proteins such as beans, fish, eggs, and low-fat meat choices.

✰ Teach kids about portions and serving sizes

✰ Limit TV and Screen Time to 2 hours a day or less!  Printable Weekly Time Tracker Spanish

✰ Get children involved with food, some suggestions include:

  • Connect kids to how food grows and where food comes from by growing a few vegetables or fruits at home, or visiting a farm or farmer's market
  • Let kids cook a recipe ( with supervision) or have them help with meal preparation- Kids Cook Monday is wonderful resource to get started
  • Give your child a few dollars at the grocery store and let them pick out a new fruit or vegetable for the family try each week
  • Make time for family meals- eating and enjoying time together is a key to kids developing healthy habits and builds positive memories of food and family time.
  • Keep it positive and fun
Encourage kids to try new foods, but remember to take the pressure off.... it can many exposures and tastes of a new food until your child develops a taste for the food and the texture. Try to keep it upbeat and no nagging! For more tips read:  how to increase the variety of foods your child eats by Dr. Dina Rose

Visit our website for fun healthy nutrition games and interactive learning tools.

A doctor offers these great suggestions for food shopping:

I suggest a few simple things to help guide you to shopping in supermarkets and protect yourself (at least a little bit) from a toxic food environment:

- Buy around perimeter of the store (that’s where the healthy stuff is) - Don’t go down isles (that’s where most of the junk food is) - Don’t buy food in a box - Or with more than 5 ingredients - Or with ingredients you can’t pronounce - Or with a cartoon on package

Just remember every time you order in a restaurant or in the supermarket you vote with your fork. Choose foods that improve our health, our social structure and that helps us eat healthfully. Read the rest of the article: Is it Impossible to Make Health Food Choices?

Food Marketing and Kids- What Can Parents do?

Doctor/Author offers these suggestions- explaining advertisements to kids:

What can parents do to protect their kids?  As always, it starts with communication.  Sit down with your child and talk about the commercials.  Explain to your kids that the purpose of the commercial is to get them to spend money.  Ask them if they think there might be some important information that the advertiser is leaving out.  “Do you think this is a healthy cereal?   Why do you think the commercial doesn’t mention anything about how much sugar is in this cereal?  Can you think of other cereals that are healthier?”

You can also discuss the use of cartoon characters.  “Why do you think the company chose a cartoon bear to sell this cereal?  Does it have anything to do with the cereal or is it just a way to get kids to watch the commercial?”

Most kids, even the younger ones, can be taught to see commercials for what they truly are. Read the complete article: How Advertisers Manipulate Children She also has a book, you can learn more about it or order it here:  Red Light, Green Light, Eat Right

Marketing to Kids What can Parents Do? By Media Awareness Network

Encourage savvy consumer habits

  • Encourage your kids to challenge advertisers' claims about their products. Do your own blind taste tests at home or buy a product and compare its performance with the claims made in the commercial.
  • The PBS Don't Buy It! Web site teaches kids to be smart about advertising and marketing. Visit the site with your kids and go through some of the interactive activities together.
  • The Center for a New American Dream has a fun, interactive Web site for kids. The I Buy Different site examines consumerism and gives tips for ethical buying.
Encourage your family to watch non-commercial television
  • Young children should watch mostly non-commercial television.
  • When watching commercial stations, tape programs so that you can fast forward through the commercials. Read the entire article:  Marketing to Kids What can Parents Do?
A few more good resources about Marketing and Kids Related resources:

Yale Rudd Center Report gives alarming facts for parents; the average preschooler sees 642 cereal advertisement per year and “cereals marketed directly to children have 85% more sugar, 65% less fiber, and 60% more sodium than cereals marketed to adults for adult consumption.” read post from our blog archive

What do I need to know about children and TV- from University of Michigan

Limit TV and Screen Time Tracker Spanish

More Healthy Tracking Pages (Spanish)

Free Healthy Kids' Nutrition Printables

We have tips,  tools, printables and games so kids can associate being healthy and eating well with fun! That's why our website is 'The Fun Way to Learn About Nutrition'. We provide free healthy educational tools for kids, parents, teachers, and communities in English or Spanish.   Sign up- it's fun, educational and free!


More articles about food marketing and kids

Doctors Urge Ban on Fast Food Ads, Would it Work?

Companies Propose Curbing Junk Food Ads for Kids

Food Makers Push Back on Limiting Ads for Kids

Eating Healthier Foods Tips for Families and Kids





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