Long before I’d even come close to letting my son watch a Clifford video, his eyes lit up at the big red dog on the Cascadian Farms cereal box. Come to think of it, that was probably even before I ever let him eat any cereal.
(Any cereal always been gluten-free and character-free, and I’ve stopped buying boxes, now making my own granola from soaked GF oats. But I digress.)
The point is, even if you don’t serve kids a certain kind of food or even expose them to TV, their eyes seem to be programmed to bug out at characters planted in front of them by savvy, mind-reading food industry executives.
Well, if the food industry decides to follow new governmental recommendations, any food marketed to children under the age of 17 will have to meet at least a few criteria of healthfulness.
Among the “proposed voluntary” recommendations are two principles for foods marketed directly to children aged 2-17.
Principle A indicates that food must contain at one ingredient that makes a “meaningful contribution to a healthy diet.” The list of “thumbs-up” options includes: fruit, vegetable, whole grain, low-fat or fat-free milk product, extra lean meat or poultry, eggs, nuts and seeds, or beans.
Clearly the word hasn’t gotten out to this group that full-fat dairy is a whole food, while reduced fat is not. As local chef, holistic health counselor and cooking instructor Monica Corrado points, out, when we eat full-fat foods, instead of processed foods, we feel more satisfied and eat less.
Principle B targets minimizing “the content of nutrients that could have a negative impact on health or weight.” On this list: saturated fat, trans fat, added sugars, and sodium.
Again, a traditional foods perspective would point out that fats are not all created equal, nor are salts. As I’ve said before, naturally-occurring whole-food fats like butter, lard, and coconut oil are beneficial for children’s bodies and brains, and real sea salt contains vital minerals. As the Weston A. Price Foundation has pointed out in its criticism of USDA dietary guidelines, the idea that fat and salt are just simply bad is a myth (which will be busted at the WAPF 2011 conference in Dallas!
We run into problems when we substitute healthy fats and mineral-rich sea salt for industrialized, factory-made fats like canola oil and refined salts. These substances are not real food once they have been stripped of their nutritional value, or are heated and processed in such a way that they have become unrecognizable to our bodies.
This anti-marketing initiative is, however, at least creating awareness, which is usually a good thing.
When an industry spends over $1.5 million a year trying to get kids to clamor for a certain cereal or snack, it might be hard to believe that it will undertake these “voluntary efforts.” But, with everyone talking about the childhood obesity epidemic, companies may just comply to look like they are doing their part, even if they keep producing food laden with sugar, dyes and chemicals — simply sans the snazzy characters to shill them.
I have so many photos of fun folks made out of real food, I think I will start a new Fun Food Friday tradition. Check back next week for another pic, whether I have a food-related item to write about or not!
Related link: FTC Guidance Documents with research and background
My article on the topic at the Washington Times Communities Family Today in my column, Reading Ingredients: Tales of a Health-Conscious Mom