Does anyone else find it alarming that the most unhealthy foods are marketed for children? With colourful packaging and cartoon characters featured on the front, it’s really hard to see past marketing and labelling sometimes!
But the sad reality is that the snacks that parents trust in the most are high in sugars, artificial colourings, flavourings and preservatives. These ingredients have a list of negative side effects in children such as hyperactivity, behavioural changes and an increased risk of childhood obesity.
So today I wanted to write a quick blog on some common marketing tactics, daily recommended intakes for children, snacks to avoid and ways to incorporate healthier eating into your lifestyle!
Common Marketing Tactics
Let’s start by looking at some common marketing tactics in food and snacks intended for children.
Primary colours such as red, yellow and blue, as well as secondary colours green, orange and purple are more appealing to children than neutral shades. As children try to make sense of their environment, objects that are bright are more stimulating and interesting. This is why food and beverage companies as well as the toy industry use bright colours on their products.
Did you know that companies spend over $12 billion dollars a year trying to convince children to consume their products? And one of the most effective strategies is to attach a popular children’s character such as Shrek to the packaging! A recent study was conducted where children were presented with food in plain packaging and packaging that contained a licensed cartoon character such as Dora. The children consistently preferred the product with the character on it than the plain packaging.
This just goes to show you that food packaging has a huge influence on children and their perception of how a product may taste.
Games and Activities on the back
Almost all cereals have a game on the back such as connect the dots, mazes, match ups and even fun facts. This attracts children and stimulates different areas in the brain associated with happiness. In turn, this conditions them to enjoy the food more because it provides entertainment.
Daily Intake Requirements
Below you will find the daily recommended intake of sugar and sodium because they are often the main culprit in making children’s snacks completely unhealthy!
- Sugar: Kids aged 2-18 should have less than 25 grams or six teaspoons of sugars daily.
- Sodium: Less than 2,300 mg per day.
Snacks and Foods to Avoid
So now that we’ve talked about marketing strategies and daily intake requirements, let’s look at some foods that are advertised to children that contain absolutely no nutritional value 🙅🏻♀️
Goldfish is a big one! Advertised as a snack made with real cheese that contains vitamins & minerals, Goldfish are nothing but a result of good marketing- these snacks are anything but nutritious! Just one serving contains 250 mg of sodium and over 20 synthetic ingredients. Any food item that contains a list of ingredients on the back is a big no-no!
Not to mention, diets that are high in sodium are associated with an increased risk of stroke, heart failure, high blood pressure and kidney disease. Eating a lot of salt is also associated with weight gain because it causes the body to retain more water which can show up as extra pounds on the scale.
So if you’re looking for a healthy, nutritious snack that will provide your child with energy- Goldfish are not the right choice! Be sure to read on for some much healthier alternatives for your little ones ☺️
It’s no secret that fruit roll ups, fruit gushers and gummies are unhealthy. These “fruit” snacks typically advertise that they contain real fruit juice, while failing to mention that they contain a list of other ingredients such as synthetic colouring, artificial flavouring and corn syrup. Take Welch’s fruit snacks as the perfect example, they really try to gain consumers trust by advertising that fruit is their #1 ingredient. However, as you can see, just one packet also contains 11 grams of sugars, corn syrup and even red 40– a toxic colourant that has many known adverse effects.
High amounts of sugar in your child’s diet can lead to obesity which increases the likelihood of developing high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol levels and type 2 diabetes later in life. Consuming too much sugar is also linked to behavioural changes such as hyperactivity or depression.
Never be fooled by “fruit” snacks, buying the real fruit is much healthier and cheaper in most cases!
A lot of parents believe that granola bars are a healthy choice because they contain ingredients such as oats, nuts and dried fruit. However, most granola bars contain ridiculous amounts of sugar and other ingredients. For example, just one Quaker Chewy S’mores Bar contains 6 grams of sugar… but that’s not even the worst part! One bar also contains 25+ ingredients! One granola bar should never contain a list of ingredients. Also, most companies add in chocolate chips, marshmallows and cookie bits which make granola bars more of a dessert bar than anything else.
Creating healthy habits early in a child’s life is so important because it’s what determines their health in the long run! You can start by limiting sugar intake by avoiding overly processed snacks and foods at the grocery store.
Juice boxes are commonly packed with lunch because they’re thought to be a healthier option than pop or soda. But juice boxes also contain high amounts of sugar, artificial colourants and very little real fruit juice. Take Minute Maid Apple Juice for example, one box (only 250 ml) contains 21 grams of sugar. So if your child has two at recess or on lunch break, they are consuming 42 grams of sugar all at once which is already 2x the recommended intake amount!
No wonder many children are thought to suffer from “behavioural” issues- they are just experiencing side effects associated with consuming high amounts of sugar, sodium and other foreign chemicals in their developing systems. Sugar crashes reduce concentration, mental focus, memory and often cause emotional outbursts or tantrums.
Developing Healthy Habits
Don’t feel bad if you buy these snacks or feel discouraged if they’re all your child is willing to eat. The cool thing about children is that they are so open minded and can have lots of fun with any activity if you make it fun! Here are three simple ways that you can encourage your child to eat healthier.
Bake or cook once a week together
Most young children love anything that is hands-on. Try baking together once a week to add some fun into your lifestyle while incorporating healthier eating! This can include making pasta, salads, fresh bread, sushi or even gingerbread cookies for a special occasion! If you’re not sure how to let your little one be more involved in the kitchen, ask them to measure simple ingredients or help to mix everything together. The key is to make a healthy meal to enjoy together later while creating new memories. Children are a lot more likely to eat a meal that they helped to prepare! 😉
Make fun shapes out of fruits and veggies
Okay so we now know that children are more drawn to brightly coloured objects and their favourite cartoon characters. So, try doing the same thing with fruits and veggies- make cool shapes that will draw your child in! You can make apple butterflies, a banana elephant or even go all out and create a full scene on the plate! You can really get creative here and even go a step further and ask your child to create a scene with you. The goal is to make healthy eating a positive and fun experience!
Create your own trail mix together
Instead of packing an unhealthy granola bar, make your own trail mix together and give it a cool name! You can go to a bulk store in your area and buy different kinds of nuts, seeds and dried fruits. When you get home, mix it all together and store it in a mason jar or container and pack it with lunch! Nuts and seeds contain lots of vital nutrients, vitamins and are a great way to boost brain power. You can even add in a few chocolate chips, pretzels or candied nuts to make it more tasty! ☺️
The main reason why I wanted to write this blog is to show just how unhealthy most foods are that are marketed for children. I want parents to start seeing past marketing and to start seeing foods for what they usually are- cheap, unhealthy and unnecessary in any child’s diet. The simplest foods such as nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables will always provide more nutrients than something that has been extensively processed. It’s so important to realize how much money goes into targeting children’s food choices, so the best thing you can do is create a fun experience out of healthy eating!
I really hope you got something from this blog! As always, feel free to contact me if you have any questions at all.
Stay healthy and stay glowing! ✨
Adcock, M. (2018, February 04). Why Are Children Drawn to Bright Colors?: Bicultural Mama. Retrieved from https://www.biculturalmama.com/2018/02/children-drawn-bright-colors.html
Cox, L. (2013, May 30). Why Is Too Much Salt Bad for You? Retrieved from https://www.livescience.com/36256-salt-bad-health.html
Kubala, J. (2018, June 03). 11 Reasons Why Too Much Sugar Is Bad for You. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/too-much-sugar
Reducing Sodium in Children’s Diets. (2018, September 05). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/children-sodium/index.html
Sugar Recommendation Healthy Kids and Teens Infographic. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/sugar/sugar-recommendation-healthy-kids-and-teens-infographic