There is a dangerous marketing strategy in regards to food and our children. No, it’s not “sugar” or “fat” or even promotions of “low sugar” or “low fat”. The marketing being used to target kids regarding food is contributing to the rising rate of obesity. Here’s why, and here’s why it is so personal to me.
I’ve told my story many times of how I struggled with being overweight as a child and teen. The problem wasn’t “baby fat”, it was the freedom I had to eat O’Henry bars and ice cream on a daily basis as my grandparents house. How fun!! Weekly visits to Bullwinkles (does anyone else remember that place?) and McDonald’s made eating exciting!
Back in the 70’s and 80’s marketing food to children as entertaining was only making its debut. Now, it’s a multi-billion dollar industry that’s derailing healthy lifestyle patterns for our kids right before our eyes. And we’re ok with it?
I heard about this marketing conspiracy at TEDxYYC in Charlene Elliot’s presentation. She single handedly dropped all our jaws as she uncovered the motive from which marketing is targeting our children. I am happy to pass this information onto you.
Here’s the problem. Children under 12 have no idea they are being “marketed to”. All they know is they see something that they HAVE to have on the commercial. What they see, they take at face value. Even the odd health conscious child wouldn’t understand that not all foods marketed as “healthy” really are. I mean, Fruit Loops? A good source of fibre? Seriously.
Here’s what Christine said that got me begging her to tell me more of what I’ve been blind to: “Child marketing disassociates children with nutrients and make kids buy into the idea that food is entertainment”. If they can do that, then they can entice masses of children (aka sucker-parents) into buying whatever chemical, I mean, food they want. After all, look at how FUN this food is to eat!!
A couple of examples where marketers have targeted children with the hook of “fun”:
This is clearly being marketed to children isn’t it? Unless you’re a huge lego fan, that is. Do you see the message? “Eat these waffles because they’re FUN!”
O.M.G. PRINCESS pop parts!! Now THOSE would be fun to eat!!
No one’s gonna buy an “unhappy” meal, now are they? Fun-suckers. They probably loaded it with carrot sticks!
I’m not sure if you’ve been to a Weight Watchers meeting? Or Jenny Craig? I’ve been to both, and the common messages between them both are: “Don’t eat when you’re bored”. “At a party, focus on talking to people, not eating”. “Don’t eat out of emotion”. These are important guidelines to follow in order to reprogram our minds from what marketers have told us; that somehow food is for entertainment or to fill a void.
We are allowing this mindset to not only remain in our children, but become an even greater influence. Marketers are teaching your kids nutrition, and it’s not good. Are you going to put up with that?!
Christine went on to add that a group of children were asked what they considered to be “kids food” and “adult food”. Here’s what they said:
Kids food: junk food, sugar, candy
Adult food: veggies, salad, meat
All of you who have tried to shove a carrot down your child’s throat (obviously not literally) know this to be true.
So what do we do? We get sneaky about it!
We start pureeing spinach and putting it in brownies! We buy cookbooks like “Deceptively Delicious” and trick those lil suckers into getting what’s good for them. Right? I’m guilty.
Unfortunately what that does is only enhances marketers message that veggies are clearly boring and must be hidden. If only they could grow a cucumber in the shape of superman… I’m sure they’re working on it.
Do I have this all figured out? HA! My pantry reveals I have bought these marketing gimmicks hook, line and sinker. Sure you’ll see “organic” cereal, but it still has a ton of sugar (and a GORILLA on the cover. Love organic marketers view of “fun”)
I do, however, have some intentional steps I’m taking to try to improve the message being preached to my kids about food. I want to be the one (as much as possible) educating my kids about food. This means I:
– Tell my kids what different foods do to their bodies. “Milk will give you strong bones”, “Spinach will make you strong” (or maybe that’s a Popeye farce? Oh well, can’t hurt, right?) “Eggs will give you lots of energy!”, “Almonds will help your brain” (I must eat more almonds…). I love it when my son refers to McDonalds as “poison”; poison he still wants once a week…
– Limit TV. Commercials are my nemesis. Thank God for Netflix.
– Tell my sons if they want a treat, something healthy needs to be eaten first. This cannot be repeated continuously throughout the day… lol
– Tell my sons the difference between food being “entertainment” and for “pleasure”. Food IS meant to be enjoyed for occasions, but it is not meant to be a void-filler. This means I have to watch my emotional eating…. Drat. It always comes back to the patterns I model.
– Go out for walks for “fun”.
– I even know some crazy people who once a week feed their family rice and beans to remember the families around the world who aren’t as lucky as us. There’s some perspective.
It’s a big dog to take on, but I believe as we rebel against the WANT marketers continue to shove at us we can take back the health they’ve stolen from us all for the sake of the almighty dollar. How low can society go?!
What are you going to do about it?