Most parents know that they should be encouraging their children to eat healthily, but it is easier to say it than to do it. Junk food is everywhere, it is powerfully advertised, it is easy to prepare and consume, and it tastes good.
What is Junk Food?
The term junk food can mean whatever you want it to mean, but in the mouths of health professionals it means food that is low in nutritional value (especially fiber, natural vitamins and minerals, healthy oils like omega-3) and high in sugar, salt, trans fats, and saturated fats.
Somewhere in our evolution humans developed a taste for the things that dominate junk food, though it is not clear why we have such a passion for them. They are elements that our bodies need in some form, but left to our own devices we would quite happily eat nothing but them, and that is where the problem lies. In quantity they are simply not good for us, and they seem to reduce our appetite for the things that are good, especially fresh vegetables and fruit.
Who Gains from Junk Food?
It is not at all easy to make junk food from the natural ingredients that the human race survived on for thousands of years—it needs to be manufactured on an industrial scale. The corporations who produce it are, for the most part, multi-million dollar businesses. They make enormous profits from the trade which, not surprisingly, they want to be able to continue unrestricted.
Alongside the manufacturers, the advertising industry makes big money from the business. There is little doubt that advertising is effective. One study indicated that children exposed to TV content with food advertising consumed more than children without that exposure.
Who Loses from Junk Food?
Everyone for whom junk food is a major element in their diet is liable to be less healthy than those who mainly avoid it. Especially this is true for children, who are much more likely to be obese if they have a diet dominated by unhealthy eating. Older people are at greater risk from heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
The nation as a whole also suffers through an over-indulgence in junk food. The cost in healthcare is difficult to estimate, but it seems clear that there is a correlation between what we as a nation eat and what we spend on healthcare.
When Is the Best Time to Start Healthy Eating?
Clearly the best time to get into the habit of eating healthily is in childhood, and parents have a big responsibility to their children in this respect. It is not easy, but there are ways to cope.
Try to keep control of exposure to TV advertising. It is reckoned that US children watch 20,000 – 40,000 commercials every year, half of which are advertising food products. Very few of those are for vegetables! If possible, be with your children when they are watching TV, and don’t let the claims made on the food commercials go unchallenged.
It is harder to do, but if your children use online media, try to get them to talk to you about the information they find there about food. The advertising industry is always at the forefront in using new technology.
Developing teeth are particularly at risk from food with a high sugar content. You may have a health insurance policy, but you may also want to consider a dental insurance plan such as that available from mydental.guardianlife.com.
It is obvious that the most important element in learning good habits is the food that you put on the table. It needs to be tasty as well as healthy, and there are plenty of cookbooks and websites to help you with recipes. When possible, involve the children in the food preparation and discuss with them the ways to make it more exciting.
You may want to consider whether you should allow an unhealthy option once or twice a week, as a way of preventing the issue becoming a point of contention in the family, or even an obsession for your children. This could happen if the only time they get to eat the things they see on the commercials is when they are away from home.
A Lifelong Journey
Healthy eating is a battle with temptation that for most people lasts a lifetime. The better the start that children can have, the better their chances of keeping on the right side of that battle. Healthy living is not just about healthy food, but it can certainly begin there.
Taylor Mills is a personal fitness trainer who recently gave birth to her first child. It’s changed her perspective slightly, and she’s now keen to teach fitness and healthy living to Moms more than ever so that they can pass good, healthy habits onto their kids. Her articles appear on health, lifestyle and Mom blogs.
18 thoughts on “Junk Food Marketing and Your Children: Teaching Smart Food Choices in the Face of Non-Stop Temptation”
Oy the junk food marketing kills me. I am so thankful that my kids would rather have a pear over a bag of chips any day 🙂
We are always on the lookout for healthy food. We do each and food we usually try to keep it at a minimum. Still need to learn more about nutrition and what is in my food, and I’m hoping as I learn I can teach my child good eating habits too.
It’s not always easy to make the healthy choices for food whether as an adult and a kid. I do succumb to eating junk foods from time to time. I try to balance it out with nutritious foods, though. Thanks for sharing this!
Junk food marketing is so pervasive. Especially since I live in a town where some is manufactured. They sponsor everything.
My theory on this is simply to just not buy it. My girls were offered a Twinkie at school for the first time (they were 8 and 10) and they just knew not to take it. I was super proud of them.
It’s important to instill positive lifestyle habits in young children. I always try to encourage them to eat fruits & veggies and to get plenty of exercise. Junk food is always a temptation in our society.
Wow, thanks for this article. It is interesting how things are in today’s world.
These are some great points. It definitely seems like the junk food ads on TV are constant.
I’ll admit it, I used to be a HUGE junk food consumer but thankfully a few year ago I changed my ways. It’s so important to have a heathy diet.
Such a great post! I think it’s so important to start healthy eating from a super young age. I try super hard to eat healthy – it gets easier the more you do it for sure!
yeah i am so bad at the junk food thing but i have been trying really hard lately to get it under control. and i have to say it is so not easy.
I’ve always thought tv was the number one marketing source for junk food. I admit to having some favorites, but it’s definitely gotten out of control over the last 30 years or so.
We’ve stopped stocking snack foods that aren’t healthy in our pantry. That helped out a lot! We constantly purchase fresh fruit and veggies so when the boys are hungry those are the only options we have!
It is never too early to teach your child healthy eating habits. My youngest daughter had a stomach issue when she was younger, so we were really diligent on educating her to the best diet choice. She is now a teenager and finds it quite easy to avoid junk food.
I’m trying to teach my kids from a young age to make heathier choices because it’s sad that unhealthy choices and junk food is around everywhere.
This is awesome information about the marketing of junk food and the temptations we all face with junk food. The industries are only interested in the money they can make from advertising and don’t care about the outcome that comes from junk foods. I do believe it is important for parents to start healthy eating when the children are at a very young age.
I think kids learn by example so if they see people around them eating healthy then they will want to also.
My kids only know what they live. They love their chips and fruit snacks like the rest but they are well balanced eaters. They love yogurt and have it daily, they also love fruit and veggies.