How Advertising Influence our Eating Habits

Evidence shows that overweight children are more likely to become overweight adults, who are at increased risk of serious health problems. These days, savvy advertisers make it difficult to know what is good and what is not so good for your child. Sometimes the decision is affected by both cost and convenience, as well as a child’s interest in particular products as seen on TV. It’s difficult to feed an entire family, whether you are a stay at home mom, a working mother or a single dad.

What Children Should eat

As a parent you need to wary of:

  • Fat: Getting your child to eat healthily is not just about cutting out fat in their diet. They need a certain amount of fat in their diet to grow healthily – just cut out saturated fat.
  • Sugar: Sugar is a bigger problem – it’s not just in sweets but also in drinks. Instead, encourage your kid to have a piece of fruit and to drink water with flavoured with some fresh fruit juice.
  • Acid: Fizzy drinks should be avoided completely because it is highly acidic and contributes to tooth decay.
  • Salt: There is a lot of salt in processed food, so the best things to avoid are tinned or pre-prepared foods.

It is important to get enough nutrients and fiber in their diet. Children do not eat a lot and it can be easy to serve up a dish of “beans on toast” or fish fingers with some peas and chips, every day. However, variety is key. Make sure that there is a lot of colour on your child’s plate through choosing different types of vegetables like aubergine, tomatoes, avocado and broccoli.

Also, it’s important to get portions of food right. Children are growing, but they still eat far less than an adult. An 8 year old child’s daily calorie intake should be 1200 for a girl and 1400 for a boy [1]. Here is an idea of what portions you should be serving [2]:

  • Grain: 1 slice of whole wheat bread or 1/2 cup of cooked brown rice or pasta or 1 ounce of ready to eat cereal. 6 servings per day.
  • Vegetable: 1/2 cup of chopped or raw vegetables or or 1 cup of raw leafy vegetables. 3 servings per day.
  • Fruit: 1 piece of fruit or melon wedge or 3/4 cup of 100% fruit juice or 1/4 cup of dried fruit. 2 servings per day.
  • Dairy: 1 cup of milk or yogurt or 2 ounces of cheese. 2 servings per day.
  • Meat: 2 to 3 ounces of cooked lean meat, poultry or fish, or 1/2 cup of cooked dry beans. You can substitute 2 tablespoons of peanut butter or 1 egg for 1 ounce of meat. 2 servings per day.

Of course, any good diet needs to be combined with a variety of exercise. Easy ways of getting a kid to go out and play is to ask them to go pick berries or biking or run an errand for you.

Is Your Child is Overweight?

It can be difficult for a parent to tell whether his or her child is overweight or just a healthy size for a growing child. A child’s healthy body mass depends on:

  • Height
  • Weight
  • Gender
  • Age

Here is a body mass index calculator to help you decide.

If you see your child getting out of breath easily when doing exercise, you should be concerned about your child’s health.

Tips for Getting Kids to Eat Well

Here are some tips to help encourage kids to eat healthily and help them make independent healthy choices about food when they grow up:

  1. Limit television time: try to pre-record shows so that they exclude the damaging effects of advertisements. Try to talk to them about the effects of adverts and what they are really saying.
  2. Encourage participation in exercise and hobbies: this could be reading so that the child is better informed, or take up a sport such as swimming or tennis. Arrange family outings in the nature and play games identifying wild fruits, vegetables and flowers.
  3. Help children read food labels: select pieces of information such as calories and show them how to compare calories for different foods. Teach them about the consequences of bad fat, sugar and salt, and how to look after their bodies.
  4. Prepare healthy, tasty and fun food: instead of leaving out candy bars, leave out healthy snacks such as apple slices with a bit of cinnamon or banana with a smudge of maple syrup or chocolate sauce.
  5. Work with school: eliminate sodas and candy from vending machines and high fat/high calorie foods from the lunchroom. See what is on the menu for school meals and talk to your school about it.
  6. Eating well: don’t force your child to eat everything on the plate – they may have reached their limit and forcing them to eat more will encourage them to take more calories than they actually need, or they are simply bored of their food.
  7. Avoid using food as a reward: linking food with achievement or good behaviour will only simply signal the desirability of certain food.

[1] Dietary Recommendations for Healthy Children, American Heart Association
[2] Keep Kids Healthy Website

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