If you eat in a healthy way, your efforts can be sabotaged at every corner. What’s worse is how healthy eating is even more difficult for children, who find themselves on the receiving end of marketing messages and deceptive labeling.
Deceptive Marketing to Children Sabotages Healthy Eating Habits
Just the other day, my daughter was watching her favorite YouTube videos. She watches people open Shopkins toys and ooh and aah over them. She found one of the videos where they were opening Shopkins toys they got in McDonald’s Happy Meals. My daughter was smiling as she watched the videos, and I was waiting for her to ask me to go to McDonald’s. Our family hasn’t eaten at McDonald’s in many, many years, and my daughter and I often call McDonald’s “McCancer,” because if people continue to eat a fast-food diet, the next stop is inevitably disease.
Guess what? She never once asked me to go to McDonald’s, even though that was the only place she could get the Shopkins she dearly wanted.
I asked my daughter if she understood why those Shopkins were only available in Happy Meals. She didn’t know. So I told her that McDonald’s is marketing to her – wanting her to want those Shopkins so much so that she asks her parents to go to McDonald’s. Then an interesting thing happened. She asked me, “What’s marketing, Mom?” She doesn’t even know what marketing is more or less when when marketing is being targeted at her. I so wish companies would stop marketing to children – they don’t even see it coming or realize they are being manipulated.
Deceptive Food Labeling Sabotages Healthy Eating Habits in Children
The other way the food industry is sabotaging our efforts to eat healthily is through deceptive labeling on products often consumed by kids. Look at the General Mills website. It says Trix (Trix is NOT gluten-free) is “fortified with 12 vitamins and minerals, and made from whole grain.” Now take a look at the box. Notice how many times they use the word “natural” – it’s abuse if you ask me!
But take a deeper look at the ingredient list. The whole grains are actually “whole grain corn sugar” – doh! That’s really considered a whole grain?!? Boy have we been duped! It looks like the FDA considers corn a whole grain if the endosperm, bran and germ are present – but I can’t help but wonder if whole grain corn sugar is seriously considered a whole grain! Read this to see the sad state of what can be labeled as a whole grain – according to the FDA.
Take another look at the front of the box. It says, “no high fructose corn syrup.” Duped again, the next ingredients on the ingredient list are “corn meal” and “corn syrup.”
The cereal really doesn’t have any true whole grains – like whole grain brown rice, millet, buckwheat, wheat, teff, flax, etc. Also, don’t be fooled by all those vitamins and minerals – those are added in to give the cereal some redeeming qualities, but if you ate real food, those vitamins and minerals would already be there. I don’t mean to just pick on Trix, all the food companies play the same “tricks” on us – I just liked how Trix is one of the tricksters!
So how can you, Mom and Dad, help your children get past these shameless marketing practices? Here’s some advice:
Instill a love of healthy eating. If your children love eating fruits and vegetables, they won’t be tempted by packaged crap.
Teach children to be label detectives. Before putting any cereal or other item in the grocery cart, read the nutrition and ingredient lists together. Help your child determine what makes a healthy – or unhealthy – choice. Be your best detective.
Explain marketing. Your child needs to understand that they are being marketed to and that they should view marketing messages through a skeptical lense.
Talk about what bad eating can do to their health. Explain the epidemic rates of obesity, diabetes and heart disease in our country, mostly related to poor eating habits. Help your children avoid processed, cheap food at all costs so they can be their best, healthy selves.
Talk about factory farming and government subsidies. These are big topics, but your child is ready to hear the truth. Government subsidies make things like beef and potatoes cheap, and factory farming is often done at the expense of cruelty to animals. If McDonald’s sourced their beef from sustainable, organic farms and without government subsidies, would a hamburger and fry still only cost $1? Me thinks not 🙂