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Scary new facts about kids' cereals, food advertising and childhood obesity

Posted on Oct 30, 2009 by Maggie LaBarbera

Halloween the holiday of 'sweets and treats' can be like a nightmare for parents who are concerned about childhood nutrition, health and the rising rates of childhood obesity. Hopefully you have visited our website to find alternative low sugar treat ideas, easy ways to make Halloween healthier, and fun holiday coloring pages for kids!

Just in time for Halloween comes some new scary facts, this time about everyday breakfast foods for kids, high sugar cereals, foods advertising to kids, and childhood obesity. We highlight some of the facts and give some solutions and tips for parents to take steps to combat 'high sugar' food advertising to kids (or see our resources section to read the full study.)

Food advertising to children and the nutrition of content of kids' cereals takes center stage in a new study by Yale University's Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity.

The study gives alarming facts for parents; the average preschooler sees 642 cereal advertisement per year and "cereals marketed directly to children have 85% more sugar, 65% less fiber, and 60% more sodium than cereals marketed to adults for adult consumption."

Also of concern to parents, is the fact that ,"if one looks at the rank order list of the worst nutrition cereals, it's stunning how the worst cereals are marketed so aggressively to children" as stated by Kelly Brownell from Yale's Rudd Center. Kelly Brownell, says Yale's new research finds that kids will eat low-sugar cereals when offered. "There are ways to train kids to eat healthier food. It's all about what they're exposed to," said Brownell.

As parents we can limit TV time to reduce exposure to marketing aimed at children, have children watch ad free media such as PBS, discuss advertising with our kids to help them to become aware of advertising tactics, and offer healthier breakfast food alternatives.

Cereal can be a fast and convenient breakfast food for busy parents. We can offer children a variety of healthy breakfast foods beyond cereal. But since cereal is 'quick and easy' it is important to find other breakfast foods that are quick to make or even good for eating on the go. Try a breakfast burrito, whole grain egg sandwich, or healthy smoothie which can all be the night before and refrigerated for a quick 'on the go 'breakfast.

Taking steps to introduce and expose children to healthier cereals is another great way for parents to take action for their children's health. We can steps away from sugar cereals by introducing healthier cereal options, after some complaining children usually adjust to the healthier alternatives. For example, we can limit sugar cereals by offering more cereal from the Top Healthy 10 Cereals by Nutrition Score

As parents we also have to be careful with food labeling claims, we can't trust the 'good for you" food label claims on packaged foods. Reading food labels for nutrition information is a great way to get the facts. We have developed food label reader tool for parents and food labeling facts game for kids - for a fun, interactive and easy way to learn more about food labels!

What is your opinion about food advertising and this new study ? Parents please share your ideas and comments on how you encourage healthier breakfast foods or cereals at home.


Cereal Ads Fuel Childhood Obesity

Cereal Facts

Yale press release Cereal Advertising Study

PBS Kids TV Schedule- Find your local shows- quality ad-free children's TV programs

From our family nutrition website Nourish Interactive- The Fun Way to Learn About Nutrition! Winner of 2009 Parents Choice Award

Printable Chart: food label claims and nutrition facts

Interactive nutrition tools for parents

Family nutrition articles and tips

"Every positive change, no matter how small, is a step to creating a healthier child. Together we can give children the knowledge, facts and skills to develop healthy habits for a lifetime!” Maggie LaBarbera RN Founder of Nourish Interactive



1 Comment

Simon Carrington
Thursday, Nov 19, 2009 @ 09:22 AM

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Fantastic article. Very informative and I totally agree as parents we must be careful. Simon.

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