I’ve been thinking a lot about food marketing over the weekend, perhaps because I often attempt to harness the positive aspects of marketing to encourage healthy eating with my boys. If you have read this blog for any amount of time, you’ve read how I alter the names of certain dinners to appeal to the tastes of a 2 and 5 year old. Like last week, when I shared the recipe for “Hamburger” soup.
As parents, we are all-too-well aware of the effects that professional food marketers can have on our children. From sugar-y cereals to unhealthy (yet somehow touted as healthful), full-of-artificial gunk snacks, our children are inundated with less than stellar food influences. Even if you attempt to steer clear of traditional marketing and advertising, a simple trip to the grocery store can yield questions of “oh, I want that!” when a child sees a colorful package.
A couple years ago food researchers did a study on how food marketing affects children’s perceived taste experiences. They took the same exact hamburgers, carrot sticks, apple slices and milk, all prepared by the food researchers’ team, not a specific restaurant or food source. They presented the food in different packaging, but again, the food was exactly the same. Any guesses on which foods the children preferred? Almost without exception, the food wrapped in a major fast food restaurant’s packaging scored the highest raves from the children.
All of this to say that we as parents have our work cut out for us. Trust me, I *know* how easy it is to succumb to the temptation of fast food. In fact, one of the goals of this blog is to help provide you with some quick, simple and easy healthy food alternatives. So take a moment, step back and give yourself a pat on the back anytime you prepare a home cooked meal. I know, it isn’t always easy.
It occurred to me however, when I was in a waiting room on Friday, with little to read and not much to do, that food marketers are quick to use their skills on us adults too. Whether it is emphasizing the words “wheat” when in fact the bread has no whole grains or highlighting that a certain juice contains pomegranate (even if there is very, very little pomegranate in it), marketers share a keen sense of what we want to buy too. But as I was in the waiting room, I took out a granola bar that was “Honey Almond Flax” flavor. While almonds were the second item on the ingredient list, honey was near the bottom of the list and the only flax seeds in the bar were whole, which are not digestible by the human body (you must grind flax seeds before eating in order to reap any nutritional benefit from them). My guess is that if the bars had the words “Chicory Root Fiber” or “Soy Grits” in the title (both of which were more prevalent than honey or flax in the bars) they wouldn’t become automatic best sellers.
All of this is not to disparage marketers, in fact, SPH works in marketing, so I certainly don’t have a grudge against them. I just share my thoughts as a reminder that we need to be cognizant of the influences affecting our family’s food choices and then thoughtfully consider our food decisions.