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Promote Healthy Kids & Fight Fast Food Advertising

Experts agree that junk food is a major contributor to skyrocketing rates of diabetes, childhood obesity and high blood pressure. However, companies and even schools continue spending billions of dollars promoting unhealthy foods to kids. Luckily, we’re beginning to see some progress as Michelle Obama has begun changing the way schools advertise to children in an effort to promote healthy kids and many companies are shifting advertising dollars to promote healthy food offerings.


As part of the first lady’s “Let’s Move” initiative to combat child obesity, proposed rules would phase out advertising of sugary drinks and junk foods on school grounds. Vending machines and other foods around schools will be made healthier and calorie, fat, sugar and sodium limits will be put in place for almost every food and beverage sold during the school day.


Following the ban of junk food marketing in schools, many companies are beginning to take action as well. U.S. retailers are being pressured to remove candy from checkout areas in a push to help kids make smarter food choices. With such temptations so close to children’s eye-level, it can be difficult for parents to say no. Removing sweets and chocolate from displays near the register will help parents reward their kids in healthier, more nutritious ways.


Additionally, many brands have begun marketing healthy food choices to kids, partnering with popular teen celebrities to inspire kids to eat their fruits and vegetables. Bolthouse Farms made carrots cool with their extreme baby carrot campaign and Birds Eye has teamed up with Nickelodeon and Disney stars to give veggies an image makeover. Many other brands are close behind, switching advertising tactics to sell healthier foods to kids.


Still, kids will continue to be hit with junk food and fast food advertising. Whether it’s during Saturday morning TV commercials, product placements in movies, or bright colored packaging in the grocery store, your kids are being bombarded with unhealthy food advertisements everywhere they turn. Here are some ways you, as a parent, can take control now and teach children to recognize and resist junk food marketing:



  •          Reduce Screen Time: Set a limit for total daily screen time, including television and Internet, which will automatically reduce the number of commercials your kids are exposed to every day. Additionally, consider using a DVR to record programs, allowing kids to fast-forward through the commercials.



  •          Be Involved:  As you watch commercials with your kids, help them identify unhealthy food advertising messages, using it as a “teachable moment.” Encourage your kids to think about ''how food marketers get us to buy their products," such as using familiar cartoon characters or fun shapes, or challenge them to ask “what are they not telling us about this food?” If your kids are old enough, talk about the nutritional value of foods and show them how to properly look at nutrition labels.


Teaching children the difference between unhealthy and healthy foods is important. How do you encourage your kids to recognize and resist fast food advertising and make healthier choices? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.


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