Food marketing to children occurs in a virtual absence of balanced and accurate nutrition education messages. The American Dietetic Association believes children would better be able to learn healthy behaviors and make healthy choices if they received more balanced messaging. ADA has recommended to the Federal Trade Commission that food advertising aimed at pre- and school-age children include a science-based nutrition education message about the food product. For example, a statement could describe how the product fits in the MyPyramid for Kids guidelines.
ADA also recommends all families meet with a dietetics professional for positive nutrition messages and to discuss practical ways to achieve healthy eating behaviors.
Food messages for children often are not filtered through parents and thus have a direct impact on children's food and beverage requests. A 2003 survey by the American Dietetic Association Foundation found older children buy food from vending machines, snack bars, convenience stores, restaurants and grocery stores about twice as often as their parents think they do.
While research is needed to determine whether more stringent regulation of TV food advertising to children would result in more healthful food choices and eating behavior, some things are clear:
- Younger children are developmentally unable to understand the intent of advertisements.
- The increasing rates of excess weight and obesity among youth threaten to jeopardize our nation's future health and productivity.
- Parents and schools play a vital role in nutrition education and modeling healthy behaviors.
To quote ADA member and children's nutrition specialist Mary Story (writing with Simone French): "...As a society that values children, there should be greater social responsibility for their present and future health. Social and environmental structures can actively support and promote healthy food choices for children."
With nearly 65,000 members, the Chicago-based American Dietetic Association serves the public by promoting optimal health and well-being for all people. Visit ADA at www.eatright.org.
Doris Acosta, Tom Ryan
800-877-1600, ext. 4822, 4894
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