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Childhood obesity prevention tips to combat unhealthy food advertising

Posted on Jan 12, 2009 by Maggie LaBarbera

With the increasing reports about the childhood obesity epidemic, the high-sugary, high-fatty food manufacturers are jumping quickly on the bandwagon to position themselves as advocates for healthier eating with new healthier foods and advertising policies. Which is great, right?

But I was reading a commentary in the Journal of the American Medical Association by Dr Ludwig, a pediatrician from Children's Hospital in Boston who has followed the food industry for many years. He shares information about their marketing practices that they do not want us to know.

Okay, I have reviewed his concerns and have added my own TIPs to help you. Because in the end, that is what this is all about. We want to take information and make it useful to help us make better nutrition decisions for our family. With this in mind, let's take a look at his list:

  • Junk food makers spend billions advertising unhealthy foods to kids.

TIP: Limit the time in front of TV and use commercials and shopping events to educate your kids. Help kids see the fun and joy of eating healthy foods. You are their biggest commercial with the most influence.

  • The studies that food producers support tend to minimize health concerns associated with their products.
TIP: When reading about a study that discusses nutrition, take a moment to see who funded the study. This way you can factor in any possible biases before you making any changes in your family's nutrition and dietary habits

  • Junk food makers donate large sums of money to professional nutrition associations.

TIP: These food manufacturers have deep pockets and organizations need support. It is not uncommon for corporations to fund organizations that have leaders in the field they are marketing in. Reputable organizations have clearly stated policies about sponsorship and advertising and will not endorse companies based on funding. You should be able to find them easily in the footer of their website.

  • More processing means more profit, but typically makes the food less healthy.

TIP: No surprises here. Whenever possible, go fresh foods. The more processed the food is, the more nutrients are stripped away AND the more sugars, salt, fat and other less healthy substances are added to the foods.

  • Less-processed foods are generally more fulfilling than their highly processed counterparts.

TIP: Again, stick with fresh foods and GO BROWN when it comes to grains. Look for whole 100% grains. Fruits, vegetables and grain foods are filled with fiber that help fill you up. Fiber also helps your arteries stay clean by lower cholesterol. When it is processed, foods like white bread, white rice, and even fruit juices and applesauce, have lost all the fiber, stripped away during processing.

  • Many supposedly healthy replacement foods are hardly healthier than the foods they replace.
TIP: Read the food labels. It is all there. Compare the replacement "healthier" product with the old one and see what exactly is healthier about it. One common trend is the substitution of soda for vitamin water or energy drinks. My husband thinks it is healthier because it says Vitamin in the label and yes they have added some vitamins into the water. But then we looked at the calories and sugar amount and found it was loaded with sugar. So be aware and read the labels.
  • A health claim on the label doesn't necessarily make a food healthy.

TIP: Again, read the food labels. See what you are actually getting. I was going to by the "lowfat" Peanut Butter because I wanted less calories. But then I looked at the label and was surprised that yes, it had less fat but it had more sugar. So I was not really saving on the calories at all. BUT, I would have thought that because I read the claim and made an assumption. So don't be fooled, read the label to see what you are feeding your kids.

  • Food industry pressure has made nutritional guidelines confusing.

TIP: Yes, we can agree with that. That is why our dietitians are taking topics each month and trying to simplify them and give you specific suggestions to help you make healthier choices for your family. We use the five food groups and a balance meal to help break it down. Click here to read this month's article about Health Claims. We have a handy health claims food guide that you can print out and take to the grocery store that helps you understand what the food claims mean.

  • The food industry funds front groups that fight anti-obesity public health initiatives.

TIP: Are we surprised by this? Of course, they will be supporting, funding, political groups to fight legislation that will diminish their profits. Politics, it is everywhere. But, it does not change the fact that we have total control over what foods are bought and promoted in our own household. We have to take responsibility to teach our children about healthy eating and healthy choices. Parents, you are still the greatest political influence in your child's life!

  • The food industry works aggressively to discredit its critics.
TIP: If we use common sense we know what, in general, is healthy and less healthy. The reality is there are a lot of arrows being shot back and forth about the causes for the childhood obesity crisis and the fact that most children regardless of weight don't eat the necessary nutrition they need. Blame does not help us change our lifestyle. I believe in action and it starts in the home first. It starts with us parents being aware of our own habits and food associations we have. It starts with us realizing our own lifestyle that we are modeling to our children.Bottom line: Make healthy changes one step at a time and they will add up to a healthier family.




Eileen Avato
Monday, Jan 12, 2009 @ 08:57 AM

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Maggie, Your site is a valuable and useful tool; thank you for taking the time and sharing your expertise. I would like to possibly add to your resource list by advising of two evidence based programs, CATCH and CATCH Kid's Club. There is a great deal of data and information available and the 1st place to start would be the information site listed above. There is an additional information site: which is maintained by the University of Texas, our research arm. Should you like to receive additional information or hard copy you can contact me at either my email address or 800-793-7900 x 7539.
Tuesday, Jan 27, 2009 @ 03:17 AM

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great job with this blog,important topic so many children are not getting the right kinds of foods
Tuesday, Jan 27, 2009 @ 11:21 AM

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you made some good points about obesity prevention and food advertising
Tuesday, Feb 10, 2009 @ 03:18 AM

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I think you did a great job writing od obesity prevention tips to combat unhealthy food advertising | Nourishing Thoughts, Promoting Healthy Nutrition For Children- Family Nutrition Blog. Bravo.
Tuesday, Apr 28, 2009 @ 09:13 PM

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Great post! Just wanted to let you know you have a new subscriber- me!

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