Parents can get creative to counteract food ads, still get their kids to eat healthy

Television could impact eating habits for children

By Meaghan St Pierre - Producer

Many parents monitor the TV shows their children watch, but what airs during the commercial breaks could impact their eating habits

"I absolutely think that kids watching commercials or celebrities or athletes influence what they do in their everyday diet," said Stacy Goldberg, nutrition consultant and CEO of Savorfull.

Goldberg said many commercials focus on high fat, high sugar and high sodium foods, and not nutrient-dense foods.

"We're not seeing commercials for broccoli and kale and carrots," Goldberg said. "They're not trendy and fun for kids."

New research shows commercials may influence your child’s habits. Researchers conducted an experiment that looked at 200 9- and 10-year-olds. The kids were fed and then shown a 34-minute TV show that contained commercials for either food or toys.

The children who viewed a show with food ads, including a commercial for gummy candy, later ate an average of 48 more calories of gummy candy than those who saw toy ads. The scientists reported that the kids with an obesity-associated gene were more likely to eat the gummies if they saw the commercial.

The kids who ate the extra gummy candy did so even though they reported feeling satisfied after eating lunch. Both groups ate the same amount of calories overall. The scientists say more research is needed to find out how big a role genes play in food overconsumption.

"The crux of the issue is to educate your children in nutrition," Goldberg said.

Goldberg said parents need to educate themselves in nutrition and then take the time to teach their children about it so they know how to make a healthy choice with food.

"Getting your kids involved with food, having them cook with you, having them meal plan with you, having them go to the grocery store to shop really makes a difference," Goldberg said.

Goldberg recommends teaching children about fiber and protein and how those foods will make them more full and satisfied. She said it's OK to have a small treat after filling up on "grow" foods first.

Also teach them about tummy hunger versus head hunger. That means teaching them what it means to feel physically hunger and not to just eat mindlessly while watching TV or playing video games.

Goldberg's advice includes getting creative and getting children involved in the food preparation.

For example, instead of just a bowl of Goldfish crackers, grab celery sticks, put cream cheese on them and then Qwackers, a healthier option than Goldfish.

Parents can also turn a treat into a snack, which can definitely help children who are used to eating cookies and other treats as snacks.

"Take the cookie, a small cookie not a giant cookie and make a cookie sandwich and put peanut butter in it or a healthy soy nut butter in between it," Goldberg said.

She said that will boost the protein and boost the healthy fats in that treat and turn it into a snack.

Goldberg said its unrealistic to completely keep children away from candy and has a clever way to incorporate it with healthier choices.

"One of the fun things to do is to let your kids get a cellophane bag, take the stickers and let them decorate them with their favorite cartoon characters, heroes and let them mix the candy with a freeze dried fruit and high protein cereal it's something that is a little bit more exciting for them. It still gives them the gummy candy but it also gives them something that's more nutrient dense," Goldberg said.

Other recommendations include using key words children might hear in commercials and point them out on healthier options, or hone in on unique flavor profiles on the healthier options.

Goldberg showcased some different healthy snack options for children. You can watch in the video below:

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