Who’s in Your Child’s Lunch Box?

Does your child love the Shrek movies? Would they get excited in the grocery store if they saw their favorite Disney Princesses on Pillsbury cookies?  Marketers have been using popular cartoon characters as an advertising strategy for years – and it’s working.

It may seem difficult to say “no” when your child asks for a food item that is being promoted by their favorite characters, but it may help their health. Childhood obesity is becoming a growing problem in America. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports about one-third of US children and teens are overweight or obese. Children are also at an all time high for risk of developing Type II Diabetes, especially in racially diverse populations. Children who are overweight are more likely to become more obese as adults.

This is a growing problem that needs to be taken care of.  Saying no to Dora the Explorer gummies may make you feel like the bad or mean parent at the time, but prevention is the key to developing healthy, life-long skills for your child.

Marketers have been using popular cartoon characters for years to draw children’s attention and approval. Corporations affiliate with production companies in a win-win situation for promotions.  Yale University researchers set out to examine children’s attitudes toward cartoon characters on food products.

The study gave children the same snack, one with no character, the other with one, such as Scooby-Doo, Dora the Explorer or Shrek. Over two-thirds of the children preferred the snack with the character on it and about half of the children said the food even tasted better than without the character. This study shows how powerful marketing tricks can be on consumerism, especially with children.

Marketing policies may not change for a while, so what can you as a parent do when your child wants SpongeBob push-pops?  Make good judgments about the food and learn to say no. In the long run, it will help them develop better judgments about food.

Always look first at the ingredient list, then the nutrition information.  Avoid high sugar and salt items, artificial preservatives, and colorings. One serving (1/2 cup) of this “Healthy Kids” Campbell’s  Condensed soup has 40% daily value of sodium for children ages 4-8.

As a busy parent, it may seem easy to buy the convenience and processed foods for your family, especially those with fun characters. But sometimes the easiest and fastest route is not always the best in the long run. Many companies use popular characters on junk food items, but some are now being featured on healthier foods, or even make healthy foods shaped like favorite characters. Say yes to healthy foods!

written by Emma Nelson


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