Some food is specifically marketed to children, and generally speaking the foods that are most heavily marketed to children are the substantially less healthy options. The other day I walked into Zehrs and waited behind a woman who had five children in tow, having white bread sliced and packaged- at least five loafs worth. Tons of unhealthy food in the cart and I watched as we were waiting at the checkout and two of her children, a boy and a girl, were sitting on the bench waiting for their mother. The boy grabbed his sisters treats and shoved them in the bench. Obviously the sister was upset and started to scream. The mother promptly came over, picked up the boy and moved him away from his sister, but did little else to right the injustice performed by her brat brother.
Parents go into the grocery store with their children in tow, generally speaking it’s one parent, in this case the other parent was there but he was in charge of his own grocery cart full of food. The parents enter the grocery store with limited time, limited patience, trying to pick out the healthiest foods and yet the truth is, they and their children have been bombarded with advertisements for foods that are more to do with societally acceptable choices, which for theses stressed out parents are what they hope to be a quick and easy way to obtain silence and a moments hope for happiness.
The food habits that you learn in early life are the food habits that you tend to follow for the rest of your life, for example, as I mentioned earlier, our full snack cupboard filled to the brim with these unhealthy treats came to be based upon my mother’s memory of her childhood norm.
Today more than ever, children are obese because of poor eating habits with increasing high blood pressure, elevated blood lipids, as well as elevated glucose levels in adolescence and younger adults. At the University of Toronto, professor Mary L’Abbé conducts research into food marketing to children, as well as nutritional qualities of packaged and restaurant foods. She has found that the need is to start preventing disease in childhood and that todays eating habits for children have risk factors for diseases such as stroke, heart disease and diabetes. This she suggests should be a wake up call in order to start to change these eating habits. These changes need to happen in the home so that children can grow up to be healthy adults.
A bill has been waiting for final approval in the senate to prevent companies from marketing foods that exceed the Health Canada thresholds for high levels of sodium or sugar or saturated fat to children under the age of thirteen. The hope is that once the bill is passed that companies reformulate those foods to get below the new proposed regulations. Apparently, that is what happened with trans fats. One of the foods that are marketed to children more aggressively than any others is breakfast cereal. Breakfast cereals are specifically designed to appeal to children with games, cartoon characters, lots of colour, and toys.
There is not only the influence of home and family, but there is also the influence of peers and schools. Friends have the greatest influence because what is talked about on the school yard or what is seen in one another's lunch box provides way more peer pressure than anything else. The earlier a person begins their sugar dependance, they are at an increased risk to progress to more serious dependancy. It is the culture and values that strongly influence what it is that children end up eating, and so it depends upon the people you have around you because who you surround yourself with both strongly influences when you are eating badly, and these same influencers are also often the reason for giving up eating badly to become healthy.
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