Today, most of the food we are connected to is processed food and the worst thing in this story is that we feed our children with it. We all know that modern packaged food is a convenient choice for every busy family, but we have to remember that they are loaded with thousands of additives and preservatives that control color, flavor, aromas, texture and even the shelf life. Take any of the common food you can find in your favorite supermarket and read the list of ingredients – if you can! Some of them are ok maybe, but most of them should be avoided, especially because about the high amounts of sugar or salt they have and, of course, because they can have a greater health impact on our children compared to adults.
More, many of them are linked to thinks like obesity, ADHD or autism. As a parent, it’s a challenge to avoid processed food as sometimes going to health food stores is not enough. Read below a few tips how we can protect future generations and what can you do to keep your kids as much as you can away from modern food dangers.
What exactly are processed foods anyways?
We all want the best for our kids, we all want them to eat real food and to know the taste of strawberry instead of a strawberry ice-cream flavor. Most of the facts about processed food make them alluring, especially the young ones. Most of this food tends to be on-the-go snacks that kids can eat in park, in the car or somewhere where you can’t let your 3 years kid display his savage table manners. Another aspect is that they are usually cheap and sometimes very expensive if we take in consideration the “organic” or “natural” labels.
And there is always the advertising. If you give your kid a little chocolate that looks like a bunny and a piece of apple, he will go for the little rabbit no matter how much do you preach about the benefits of fruits or how many times you gave him fresh vegetables. Companies know about the impact advertising has on kids and they even extended their ads to young mothers; they know that mothers are too distracted by work to make launch, but they will love a prepacked meal.Mothers might be too distracted by work, and they give their kids small prepackaged treats. Click To Tweet
The tricky business
The average US child watches an estimated 16.000 TV commercials per year. While the US children are among the world’s avid consumers of advertising, the effect of television on kids is a concern for all parents across the globe. Critics of advertising claim that it contributes to a host of ills, from childhood obesity and poor impulse control to precocious sexuality.
In this new era, the battle for the minds and hearts of our kids opened a new front: their stomachs. All this comes together with Michelles Obama’s campaign against childhood obesity and with fast-food chains programs that promote more and more their healthy-eating aimed ar children. One of them is Subway, who under the name “Playtime, powered by veggies” agreed to spend $41mil over three years to kids’ marketing, which will include TV, digital marketing, in-store merchandising and digital and social media. TV spots, created by Subway’s agency MMB, are expected to launch somewhere in March and will include pile-on-the-veggies messaging. Subway typically does not offer toys in its kids’ meals, but Mr. Pace said that the chain is considering including educational materials that focus on education, possibly around the back-to-school season.
A video collaboration with Disney’s Muppets franchise is also in the works. In some ways, the restaurant is a perfect test case; while the nutritional profile of Subway’s offerings is far from perfect, it is one of the healthier options in the large-chain fast-food market. And, by presenting an aggressively marketed alternative to McDonald’s, Subway is suggesting an enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend strategy that could create some strange bedfellows in the war against childhood obesity.
And because both of them are in the same business numbers do count. In 2012 Subway spent about $7m on kids advertising while in the same year, McDonald’s spent an estimated $42m on advertising its Happy Meals.
The average child in the U.S. between ages 2 and 11 saw 185 Chicken McNugget Happy Meal commercials on TV last year, according to Nielsen data used in the report. The next most popular items advertised to kids include Burger King’s Kids Meal (23.4 views per year) and Dairy Queen’s DQ Blizzard (22.9 views), although those products trailed the Happy Meal by a wide margin.
The Happy Meal was also the most commonly advertised fast-food item on kid-oriented websites in the survey, with 25.3 million total views—far more than Subway’s Kids meal (3.6 million views) in a distant second place.
Subway, which began offering kids meals in 2007, said its kids meals will meet guidelines set by federal nutritional standards for the national school lunch program, which means the meals will be no more than 600 calories, will have no artificial trans fat, will have less than 10% of calories from saturated fat and less than 935 milligrams of sodium. The meals will also provide a serving each of fruit and vegetables, as well as non-fat milk or water. The chain said it will also work to develop some bread options that meet dietary guidelines.
Advertising is harmful to children
Ian Barber, communications director of the UK’s Advertising Association, suggests that the child marketing furore may ultimately be a matter of displacement; parents who are concerned about certain products may become angry or upset when they are marketed to children, and may blame the medium for the message.
Advertising isn’t the issue. The sort of advertisements that children see is the issue. But then you get into a very objective debate about how people feel about certain brands or services.
On the other hand, Susan Linn, director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood disagrees.
Advertising, in and of itself, is harmful to children she argues.
Marketing targets emotions, not intellect. It trains children to choose products not for the actual value of the product, but because of celebrity or what’s on the package. It undermines critical thinking and promotes impulse buying.
When it comes to legal restrictions on child advertising, the UK occupies a spot somewhere near the middle of the spectrum. At one extreme, Sweden, Norway and Quebec completely bar marketing to children under the age of 12. At the opposite end are countries such as the United States, where the marketing industry is self-regulated, with few legal restrictions on the material that advertisers can broadcast to children.
In Britain, the advertising industry self-regulates, within the bounds of certain national and international laws that limit the products and techniques that it is allowed to employ. For example, you can’t make a child feel inferior or unpopular for not buying a product.
You can’t take advantage of their credulity or suggest that they’re lacking in courage or loyalty. You can’t encourage them to actively pester their parents, or make a direct exhortation to a child to buy a product.
What can we do?
Identify what your child likes to eat. Keep a food diary for a week if you think this can help, noting everything that is eaten – including at school(it is a good way to make them lunch for school, but you can also can ask them about their favorite). At the end of the week, you should have a good idea of your child’s exposure to food additives. Food additives are largely present in processed and packaged foods, candy, soda and other “junk” food, so if you limit those foods you will have a win on a long run.
Eat whole foods. Eating a balanced diet of fresh produce and whole grains will go a long way towards keeping additives and preservatives out of your child’s system. Whole foods are much healthier than processed and packaged. But, if you do buy processed foods, look for the organic options which have little or no added synthetic colors or preservatives.
Go for local farms. The best option that you can choose is to look for a local farm/produces and try to get as much organic/bio food you can. You can easily find milk, eggs, vegetables and even meat close to your place. You just have to search carefully, ask your neighbors if you just moved in or even search online. There are a lot of site out there that mapped local producers worldwide.
Cook at home. We all have jobs and know how difficult is to have energy and time to cook meal when we get home. Still, is very important from a little age to teach your kids about the importance of family meal. Make it like it is a ceremony and involve them in the action. Kids love to peal tomatoes or decorate pizza. More, this kind of action creates a link kid-food. The adult he will become will thank you, because he will form a habit of healthy food cooked at home.
Eat fresh. Cooking at home means that you can control what you give to your children. Try to avoid as much as you can the microwave and pre-cooked meals you can find in supermarkets these days. You can always make a salad from 2-3 vegetables and serve it with a steak. The advantage is that if there are any leftovers from last evening turkey for exemple, you can easily prepare the sandwiches for next day. Cold turkey steak is not that bad in a sandwich and is much more healthy than a burger that you kid can find at school.
Keep restaurants for special occasions. I don’t say that is wrong to go out and eat at the restaurant as long as you know what to order. You don’t have to go to the restaurant and eat the same food you cook at home. You can use this technique once a month lets say to eat some international dishes or try something that you know your kids love: like french fries or sweets. I know a lot of people that go out just to eat the kind of meal that you can’t cook at home or that takes a lot of time.
Read the labels. According to pediatrician Alan Greene, be especially attentive to the top five risky additives:
1. Artificial Colors – anything that begins with FD&C (e.g. FD&C Blue No. 1)
2. Chemical Preservatives – Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA), Sodium Nitrate, Sodium
3. Artificial Sweeteners – Aspartame, Acesulfame-K, Saccharin
4. Added Sugar – High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS), Corn Syrup, Dextrose, etc
5. Added Salt – Look at the sodium content and choose foods with the lowest amounts possible
6. MSG or monosodium glutamat
7. Various oils that can be offensive – corn oil, soybean oil, palm oil
8. Wheat flour – see this article about bread
9. Nitrates and nitrites
10. Trans fat or partially hydrogenated oil
Taking all these in consideration there are a lot of health concerns processed food has been linked to children:
In a 2011 randomized controlled trial published in the Lancet, children with ADHD who eliminated processed food showed a significant decrease in ADHD symptoms. When the foods were reintroduced, symptoms intensified.
Type 2 Diabetes: According to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, processed foods contribute to the development of insulin resistance due to their concentrations of chemicals called advanced glycation endproducts, or AGEs.
Autism: A 2012 study published in Clinical Epigenetics found that high consumption of additives like high fructose corn syrup contributes to mineral deficiencies that might contribute to autism spectrum disorders.