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As Seen on TV!

Latest shocker in the news: Foods advertised on television are bad for you.

I think we already knew this, right? But now it’s official. According to a recent study, published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, the foods advertised on TV fail to meet nutrition guidelines and create a serious nutritional imbalance. Together, these foods supply 2,560% (yes, over two thousand percent) of the recommended daily allowance for sugars, 2,080% of the recommended daily allowance for fat, only 40% of the recommended daily servings of vegetables, and 27% of the recommended daily servings of fruits. And these same foods oversupply protein, cholesterol, and sodium, while undersupplying whole grains, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Grim, huh? Especially when you consider that somewhere around 10 billion dollars are spent every year on food advertising in this country (compared with $300 million on nutrition education). I don’t have a stat, but I can bet a lot of that 10 billion is directed toward advertising Lucky Charms, Froot by the Foot, Oreo Fun Stix, Oscar Mayer Hot Dogs, and Campbell’s (high-fructose corn syrup) Soup — in other words, foods that sure look and sound great to kids.

Okay, it’s hard enough battling the grocery store displays, pool snack bars, and candy-wielding camp counselors. But when my kids come to me asking for Chocolate Chex Mix or a Bacon Ranch Tortada because they saw it on TV, I tend to get really irritated.

Before I continue, I need to acknowledge that while we don’t watch much TV in our house, we do watch some. I know it’s mostly junk (hey, there’s a theme here), but TV can come in handy every once in a while (like right now). Mostly, we record shows on the DVR, so the kids can watch relatively appropriate things like Ace of Cakes and old episodes of Scooby Doo instead of iCarly and The Suite Life (don’t get me started about those snarky, attitude-producing kids’ shows) — which seem to be always on.

So, I am blogging about food, not TV. While I think the shows are pretty painful, it’s the ads that I am at war with. I think you can do one of two things: either 1) ban TV altogether (commendable choice), or 2) ban all food that’s advertised on TV. Guess which one I choose? Think about it, when is the last time you saw a commercial for (non-frozen) carrots? Or strawberries? Or wild salmon? That’s right, probably never. It’s only the large corporations that make highly processed, industrial foods that can even dream of spending the $780,000 per 30-second it costs to advertise on shows like American Idol.

So, now when my kids come to me wanting the new KoolAid Fun Fizz or Cheetos Mighty Zingers, I tell them we don’t buy — or eat — stuff you see on TV. When they ask why, I can launch into my lengthy explanation about the vast, multi-layered conspiracy to make people unhealthy and need more health care. (I actually don’t have anything against large corporations as such and get that they need to make money in order to be, well, corporations. I also don’t really believe in conspiracy theories, but my kids don’t need to know that.) This generally tends to make the kids’ eyes glaze over and send them running to the back yard — probably where they should be anyway.

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This post has 3 comments

  • Kent says:

    Great post Bevin. Sticking to the outside circle at a grocery store is the key to avoiding all of the processed stuff. I teach at the local university here in Portland. One of my lectures focuses on co-op (paid placement). I am always surprised that so many students (these are graduate students) do not know that all of the key real estate in the store is paid for. I use the cereal isle as an example. The high cost sugary stuff is front and center (pays the most co-op) and the lower cost stuff is below. The cereal that is not paying co-op is up top and hard to reach. Same goes for all of the sugary stuff next to the check out isles. All paid for (and at the perfect height for the little ones to grab). I am certainly enjoying your posts.. Hope to read more soon.

  • Tracey says:

    You’re great. Love this blog. I am totally with you on this. I think the rule about “we don’t buy food advertised on TV” is great because it teaches kids critical thinking skills — that they tend not to learn elsewhere — which will serve them well later in life. Good job.

    Another alternative is not to have cable TV. My kids (8 and 12) have no idea what those products are. They have watched Survivor and American Idol at times, but I haven’t noticed any kid-directed ads there.

  • Jo Conn says:

    Great post, Bevin! I’m hooked and have forwarded your Blog to a number of friends; I think they’ll benefit from your healthy approach to raising children. I love the previous recipes…..keep’em coming! With most Farmer’s Markets up and running, there will be lots of great, organic veggies to discover.

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