Are Parents Just Not Getting The Hint?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Food marketers will do just about anything to get our attention- or rather, the attention of our children. That's why it's important for parents to be aware of the tactics used to promote unhealthy foods to their kids. With all of the recent talk about childhood obesity rates and improving kids' health, you'd think that parents would be smarter and learn to make better choices for their kids. But according to new research, that's not the case.

In 2006, 2007 and 2008, researchers at Yale University's Rudd Center for Food Policy took a look at all of the foods packaged with cross-promotion in the supermarket. Cross-promotion means the food also advertises cartoon characters, sports figures, TV shows, etc. The findings are published in the journal Public Health Nutrition.

The study found that "Cross-promotions targeted at children and teens increased by 78 percent from 2006 to 2008, and only 18 percent of products examined met accepted nutrition standards for foods sold to youth. The nutritional quality of kids food products with cross-promotional packaging also declined during the period of study." This means that the volume of food being targeted to kids is going up, and most of it is junk.

"Food manufacturers that have pledged to limit marketing to children through the Council of Better Business Bureaus’ Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative represented 65% of all youth-oriented cross promotions observed in the study," according to the researchers. The problem is that these pledges don't apply to marketing that targets children in the store.

So what can parents do? It's not easy when you're walking through the grocery store and your kids spot the box of sugar cereal with SpongeBob on the front. Sometimes it's easier to give in rather than start a fight in Aisle 12 or listen to whining through the rest of the store. But I think the more we give in to things like that, the harder it becomes to say "no" next time.

Food marketers only use these tactics because they work. If they weren't effective, the numbers wouldn't keep increasing. It's time for parents to start saying "no" for the health and well-being of our children.

What do you think?

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Yes, marketing works - if it didn't billions wouldn't be spent every year on it. That doesn't mean we are a prisoner to it. As sentient adults, it's our job to monitor our children, teach them and model the behaviour we want them to adopt. Telling your kids not to eat something and then eating it yourself will not work. Just saying no won't work long-term either. When they are 4 no can work, when they are 17 "just say no" doesn't have the same impact. To influence their teen and after choices, education is needed. Teach them what foods do to and for our bodies, why we need certain foods, why and how others have a negative impact on our bodies, teach them how to prepare healthful foods (if they don't know how to make it or are intimidated, they will reach for something packaged and processed - it's the nature of teens). Teach them through modelling how to enjoy food - eat slowly, savour the experience. If they see something on TV or in the grocery aisle they want, show them how to read the label to understand and assess whether it is nutritious - do this from an early age - they will catch on quicker than you might think. Teach them the inconsistencies in marketing - how marketers often puts a positive spin on things - listen to the ads and talk about what the marketers are trying to achieve and how - I started doing this with my kids when they were pre-school - obviously they didn't connect the dots then, but by the time they were 9 or 10 years old they would want me to watch an ad because they had recognized the "spin". They're in their mid teens now and I would say, reasonably immune to advertising, and even to some degree, peer pressure to have the latest and greatest technology - just my opinion. Report
GREAT ARTICLE!!!! Marketing is so powerful! We actually don't watch tv mainly because of this and the shows on tv are NOT for kids anymore!!!!!
Moderation and parenting, period. Report
I think that no matter what is advertised to our kids it is our job to teach them how to eat right. I'm teaching my kids to read nutrition labels so they aren't taken in my the bottle of pop that actually has 2.5 servings in it. Report
First people want the government to stop their kids from asking for junk food, and now they want the government to stop their kids from talking to weird people online. When do the parents step in? If you can't say 'No!' to your child then that's your problem, not the government or others in power. When we went shopping with our mum and saw something we liked, if she said no then she meant no. We wouldn't dare throw a tantrum. Yes, we sulked for a while but forgot by the time we got home. Or just let them throw a tantrum, but don't buy what they want! Report
Their clever marketing doesn't work so well when you don't watch TV. :) Report
Boy, I can't tell you the number of times I have been on the cereal isle with my kids and they saw Barbie or Sponge Bob or Dora the Exployer and HAD to have that cereal!!! And when we get it home because "I gave in" they didn't even like the cereal and I think I was more upset with the fact that I just spent money on something they won't even eat!!! But, yes, these tactics are sneaky and just plain wrong if you ask me!!!

Anything to make a sale!!! I still think if the manufacturers wanted to sell their products and make their money, they need to make their "junk foods" healthier!!! That would help everyone!!! But I don't see that happening any time soon!!! Oh well, I have pretty much decided now that I don't go to the grocery store with my kids and if I do have to go, I have learned how to say no and just deal with the whining... You would think they would stop after a while, but my kids are just determined!!! But I am now more determined than ever to help them eat healthier and understand why it's better for them... Report
Okay I just turned 18. I am now overweight and I would like to point out it is not always the "evil marketers." I, for example, never ate the things out of commercials. For me, it was what my parents ate. Every refill of the gas tank required a soda and snack cake. Although I was limited to what I could have, I still ended up overweight. Why is this? because as soon as I had money of my own I would go purchase sugary sodas and candy bars. I looked up to my parents. The same was to be said on the other side. My mom adores fresh fruit. Because of this I got to experince foods I would not have otherwise had the opportunity to... So elders are to blame as well. Children see more than you think. Report
I do allow my kids to have the sugar loaded cereals on occasion (like once or twice a year) but for the most part they eat toast, eggs, whole grain cereals and hot cereals like oatmeal and Cream of Wheat.

I think by making them 100% off limits is feeding into the "forbidden fruit" category and in my experience with my sister's kids leads to gorging on these foods when they do enter the house and in the case of my one niece closet eating so that no one else sees her with it (she has made her own money for a few years now and spends it mostly on junk food). Report
Most children just aren't going to choose healthy food, and it is absolutely up to the parent to do so. And it's not an easy thing for many. Being in a situation where your kid is having a meltdown can be daunting. BTDT. Overall my kids were pretty well-behaved when they were small, but they weren't perfect by any stretch. I didn't really care what other people thought when they did cry that they wanted something, but I remember the looks I would sometimes get. So, when I see people dealing with their unruly child, I try to catch their eye, smile and say something positive about it. It's amazing how it can give someone who is feeling embarassed, upset or overwhelmed a moment to catch their breath and regroup. Report
I think parents should worry more about parenting and less about "the evil marketers." Parent by saying no to foods you don't think they should eat. Parent by only supplying food you think they should eat. Parent by limiting TV time. Parent by encouraging activity.

Also, did you know you should really be angrier at the advertisers, since they are the ones creating the ads (eg come up with the concept, write the words, make the pictures) instead of the marketers who simply come up with general campaigns (eg we're going to push Trix this quarter). Report
I totally agree with MONI0709! You said it exactly. I do offer my children sweets in limited quantities, but try to make sure other snacks are healthy. Just because it is healthy doesn't mean it can't taste good too. Smoothies, yogurt, fruit, cheese and whole grain crackers are foods my children routinely ask for. Growing up, I don't ever remember being limited on the volume of sweets or junk foods. That partially explains why I am a member of this site! I knew I wanted better for my children.
My oldest daughter was born 13 weeks prematurely and has always struggled with size. I tried to read up and explore healthy ways to feed your baby/toddler and have always been consistent in my efforts. I have never purchased character-adorned snacks for my children. Perhaps if they had something worthwhile in the boxes I might be so inclined. Sure, my children have asked for the stuff, but I explain that it is not good for their bodies and encourage them to find other healthy snacks. Report
Has anyone heard of the Coalition for a Commercial Free Childhood? I work at he Judge Baker Children's Center where they gave a lecture discussing some of the ways that Spongebob and other iconic characters teaming up with grocery chains have helped to contribute to childhood obesity by associating certain junk foods with familiar and beloved characters that children see on TV. When kids recognize the cartoon character on a box of sugary cereal, they react positively, which encourages the parent to but that product. Additionally, when the child sees the product on TV, it reminds them to eat the sugary cereal. Therefore, both the iconic company and the food product company win on both ends, since they both each other's trigger. Report
I do think that food marketers target children agressively, but it's up to the parents to make the ultimate decision on what goes into their mouths. A lot of parents give their children food that is not nutritious because they themselves don't eat well. Sometimes the parents don't know any better, but once they learn then they need to get their acts together. Then again, some parents just don't care! Report
This just gets me started on a whole tangent about parents/parenting and kids. If parents learned to be firmer and say NO more often, trust me, there wouldn't be the high levels of things bad in this world: disrespect, lack of responsibility, obesity, etc.

My daughter is 4 1/2 and she is spoken to like a rational fully capable human being.
Her: I want candy.
Me: You had a piece after lunch, you only get one sweet.
Her: Why?
Me: Because having too many sweets isn't healthy for your insides.
Her: So I might get sick?
Me: Yes, if you have too much.
Her:Ok. Can I have a healthy snack then?
Me: Yes.

I have done this since she could speak and ask for things. She has a full understanding of what food does to and for her body. She is a kid tho and will attempt to push the issue from time to time but I remain firm. It is the only way she will ever learn that there are limits and consequences to her actions. I have to help her shape that or I will CONDEMN her to live the struggle that I have.

Parents think of allowing these treats as loving their children, not realizing what a long-term disservice this actually is. You want to spoil and love your child? Give them an extra 20 minutes at the park. Take them to the Jump n Play and let them scream, run, slide and bounce for an hour. Hug them, tell them a million times a day you love them. Don't let them repeat your struggles and cycles of self abuse by food. Report
I agree when your are watching the olympics and the sponsor is a non good food source like mc donalds.. What message are we sending here?
That you can have a great career in a sport and that you should eat fatty foods. Hello...
They should promote foods that will be healthy advice to the young and old. You see the commercials and your hungry and this is the kind of food that is in your face on tv.
They need to get more healthy commericials out there. Or quick tips in commercials while you wait for your show to come back on.
Then the media wonders why there is so much trouble with weight and diabetes.
Get a clue! Report
I think food marketers are very sneaky. I allow my little one to have Lucky Charms or Trix as dessert after dinner. Report
Great article. One thing that really irritated me during the Olympics was that the olympics were sponsored by McDonald's....Seriously? McDonald's? So then they have world-class athletes marketing that junk food. It sends an awful message and just put blinders over people's eyes about the harm that fast food can do to bodies. If Olympians were polled, how many of them do you think eat McDonalds even once in a week? ...and they're not allowed to count what they had to eat in the commercial. Report
If you can't get through the cereal or snack isles without a FIGHT, then you have a long road ahead of you when the thing your kids want is a lot more dangerous than Captain Crunch or Lucky Charms!!! Give your kids healthier alternatives in place of the bad ones and there shouldn't be much of any fighting unless your child is used to getting whatever they ask for!! Report
If there are two things my kids learned really early, it's that first, pulling a tantrum in the middle of a store is not going to get them anything or anywhere, except maybe for a time out (!), and second we are not going to buy a food, or anything really, just because their favorite cartoon is on the packaging. My 7 y.o. still asks sometimes of course, when he sees a batman something or other, but I just say NO, that stuff is full of sugar and is not good for you. Period. He understands and leaves it at that.
I have struggled with my weight for close to 20 years. For the past year I have worked so hard to get back in shape and educate myself, and they see that. They are both becoming aware of the importance of eating well. My daughter won't even go to McD's anymore! So if I tell them that something is not good for them, usually they don't insist.
I think that the products that are displayed showing cartoons or kid's characters need that advertisement to sell, because the manufacturers know all too well their products are unhealthy, and that with plain, unattractive packaging, the parents won't buy them. These people also know all too well the power some kids have over their parents, and they use that to sell their products. Personnally, I refuse to encourage this and do not buy these products. Report
I think that the market out there is misleading. I just found out how there is sugar in everything. My point is, that it is easy to fool the public if you just don't know what is really good for you and what just looks like it is good for you. It is not easy being that mom that tells Johnny "sorry but that is not good for you" when all the other kids are eating at Mc Donald's and Burger King! Report
Food companies are in the business to sell products, not to worry about our health. In fact, there is strong evidence that a fat sugar combo is addictive, it keeps their business strong. Deception is prevalent among food labeling, but by the time it gets reported and investigated, the damage is done. Parents need to be investigative reporters when it comes to shopping for packaged and processed foods. If the demand goes down, the food companies will refocus on what consumers are demanding, which should be truth in labeling and healthy foods. Report
Kids are learning this behavior from their folks. How often do you see an obese child with athletic parents, or vice versa? Report
My kids learned early on that they were not going to get things just because they pulled a tantrum. I give one warning and they knew that I would just leave take the shopping cart up to the front of the store and ask them to put it in the refrigerator section until I could come back later after their father was home. Only took one time and they behaved in the market. When they were good I would let them get the free cookie in the bakery after shopping. They helped me pick out foods to buy, only when they got in HS did they start misbehaving and that was just to bug me and their ages.
I use to hate to go to the mall with one of my girlfriends and her son. Whenever he saw anything he just had to have it and she always broke down and purchase whatever the item. Even a bike one time just a few weeks b/4 Christmas and he still got a whole bunch of big money items for that Christmas. Neither her or her husband could ever tell the boy no.
My kids got presents on their birthdays, Easter and Christmas. Anything else they earn and purchased themselves.
I was never so shocked as I was to see a baby drinking soda in a bottle (Mountain Dew) and had to wonder what the parent was thinking giving that junk to a child less than 2 yrs old. This is very common among poorer families white, black and Hispanic. All I can figure is no one ever taught them what was proper to feed a small child and the Dew is cheaper than milk. Report
here's a trick, if you have to take your kids to the grocery (single aprent or spouse working) - give them part of the list to get for you. If your in the fruit.veggie dept ask them to pick something while you get something else, in the diary ask them to get the eggs while you get the milk. IMake it into a treasure hunt. (I don't see " - ", do you?) If you involve them in getting the items on the list (if they're young keep them in sight) they will be too preoccupied to be looking at the stuff they shouldn't be getting . Report
The parents must learn to say NO. They don't get it and the Gov't. dosen't get it. I'm against the intervention of the Gov't in health issues regarding what we should eat, but we all have to take responsibility for what we do. Report
Healthy eating habits should be taught to all Report
While I don't have children, I think my parents employed a few great tactics when my siblings and I were kids.
First off, we were only allowed to be in front of the TV 5 hours a week. We didn't have cable or any gaming systems. The 5 hours included Saturday morning cartoons. Trust me... I don't feel that I missed out on ANYTHING.
We were consistently told "no". We learned very very early to not even ask. My mother would then give us a choice- "do you want THIS cereal or THIS cereal"? That way we felt included. Then every once in awhile, she would buy something that we really, really wanted- and it felt like a real treat. Not something we had to beg for. Report
I am thankful that my daughter doesn't watch TV at my house. She only sees it when visiting friends or her dad. She's 7. So I don't get all the begging all the time. However, I do get plenty of begging for treats when we go grocery shopping, so I have set a rule that she is allowed one treat when we go grocery shopping (I usually just don't take her). She is allowed fruit leather or another small treat such as a chocolate-flavored yogurt. I consider these basically healthy treats. Yes, she does eat candy and ice cream occasionnally. We have a standing date on Saturday for Baskin Robbins and always seems to have leftover candy from some holiday (from halloween to Thanksgiving.. thanksgiving to christmas... christmas to valentines day.... valentines day to easter... she gets this candy from other people and if it's in the house she can have 1 piece as a treat if she eats all her vegetables and a healthy entree. I try to provide a good mix between allowing treats and making sure she eats healthy meals. Report
I see both sides to this arguement. But as for me and my family...Shopping is a family affair. I am blessed with a husband that will try anything. So I am really not limited to what I experiment with. And that is how we are raising our daughter. She is only 16 months old, but she knows what she likes. 95% of our groceries come from the perimeter of the store. Unless it's oatmeal, bread, ect.... She loves avocados, and know what they look like on the outside, so when we pass them in the store, she grabs for them. The same goes with bananas, apples, and string cheese. I am hoping that by me making her involved at a young age, she will understand the importance of food being used as fuel for her body. We do the scratch and sniff with the lemons, and oranges and things like this, so it plays to her senses.

When I cook dinner, she sits in her highchair right next to me and I talk to her, and show her the vegetables that I am working with. Maybe it sounds crazy to most...but for her and I, it's a time to bond. We don't have Sponge Bob playing in the back ground, so she is not exposed to him or other cartoons.

She has been taken outside since she was about 4 months old an shown things...Leaves, flowers, trees, animals. And at her young age, she knows that when we pull out bike helmets that it is time for her to go too...and she gets excited.

My firm belief is a lot of the problems theses days is because of a child's's not the child's fault, it's the parents who have not instilled the correct values into their children. As a parent, all I can do is make sure I provide her with the tools to live a healthy, sustainable life. When she is able to make her own decisions, I pray that I have done right by her.... Report
My question back is this - is society, is manufactors and companies, is the government not getting it. I'd suggest SP take a look at the politics of food, how recessions and poverty fit into poor nutritional health and how the current policies are hurting our ability to be healthy. Agriculture, for example, has moved from the small farm to factory farming. Factory farms focus is to make money. This translates into stressed animals, chemicals in the feed to fatten them up quickly and then, processed to your table. Many of our foods are processed in 3rd world countries, then shipped back and then as consumers we wonder on why we have so many issues with the food. So rather than deal with the issue at the society level, instead the focus is on parents - as if they raise children in total solitude - and worse, all parents are painted with the same brush. Children vary in weight and they will flucuate as their bodies grow. What disturbs me is the increased number of children - not preteens or teens, I mean 6yr old children, 7yr old children - obsessed about their weight. Children on diets. Preteens starving to stop the hips from growing and the breasts from coming in because it gains weight. Boys who work out and refuse to eat anything but "those carbs that'll build up muscles" starting as young as 6yrs old. Some teachers (not all) who scream and put down students who cannot run as hard as "the rest of the class" and do not realize (or seem to care) there may be underlying issues preventing this from occurring. For example, my nephew was a chunky boy and had asthma. He was playing basketball and felt an attack coming on. He learned from us to pull off, slow down, get his breath and then return - usually he could avoid the inhalor if he did this. The teacher came into his face, called him a fat pig, told him he was lazy and stop being such a ***. The teacher was not reprimanded, my nephew was told to lose weight. The kid was moving into puberty, children often gain fat in preparation of the body becoming "a man" (or "woman") and he was very active outside of gym class. He walked off the gym floor. He is now 6'2" tall, 16yrs old and solid. He still has asthma, he is very active in his new school and he finally grew into his body. The thing is, over the past couple weeks I've read over and over how parents are to change things for their children and while it is very true that parents are the key, there needs to be recognition that there are many other factors that influence this whole issue of food, nutrition and weight. As I said in comment section of a previous blog, try living in poverty and have enough left to purchase healthy food. Try living as working poor, there is no social assistance, if there isn't much in a food bank the food will go to those on assistance and not working poor and at the end of the day, a parent does the best one can. I've met a variety of parents through the 30+yrs I've worked in health and to paint them all as spoiling their children with treats is a total disservice, as its only a piece of the picture. There is just so much more to all of this issue. Last, it takes a community to raise a child, so aunties, uncles, cousins, grandparents...we are also part of this picture too. As an auntie since I was 14yrs old, I know how important my role is with raising healthy, well-rounded children and there are times I've had to say "no" as means to support the parents for healthy living practices. It's not simply an island of parents and children, there are many involved - how about teachers that give out candy as rewards for good work? Or counsellors that provide junk food as snacks to the clients? All these practices need to end too. Report
First let me say I am not a parent, nor have I ever wanted to be one.

But I think that parents these days give into their children these days. Not just about food. They are far to concerned about other think, ie kid having a fit in the store than just teaching them that they can not have everything they want. It has lead to a generation who think the world owes them.

How dare anyone tell them no, especially their parents who would rather give in, rather than face the fall out of tough love and say no you can't have everything you want. Report
When time allows I watch commercials with my children and take them shopping. No is a frequent word in my vocabulary during these outings. My children are better at analyzing foods and contents because of the explanations which follow the no. Early in their lives, television was only PBS. As they have grow Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, and Boomerang have taken their television time to new heights. Three weeks ago, my wife and I reestablished control and limited television, web based computing (not homework), and other electronics to 20 hours per week. Sounds like a lot until you realize how prevalent these devices are in our everyday world.

Nancy Regan said it right,"Just say No!" Report
I remember seeing a tv show years ago that explained advertising to kids. The goal was to counteract exactly this issue - for kids to know why that commercial or package was geared toward making them want something. I don't necessarily think that avoiding the ads or the grocery store is the answer. It makes more sense to me to educate kids about food and advertising. Report
I always took my daughter grocery shopping and would buy her some stuff that wasn't too good for her but would say no to a lot of it. Her favourite breakfast cereal was corn pops, so that's what she got. When she hit 15, I would send her grocery shopping with my credit card so she could buy what she would eat as well as what I had on the list. I didn't want to waste food and knowing that if I had only fruits and veggies in the house she would eat elsewhere. So, I let her choose what she wanted. I was a single mother and had to work full time to be able to feed, house and clothe her. I cooked (or she did) supper every night, not always healthful choices, but not always bad either. She has never had a weight problem, she made the choices about junk food in moderation, she always enjoyed a good variety of food.

Me on the other hand, has always had a weight problem, food was forced on me, I always had to finish what was on my plate. We were allowed to fill our own dishes and being kids and being hungry when we sat down for supper....always took way too much, but had to sit there until it was all gone. Not a very healthy eating pattern. So, whether it was the right thing to do or not, I let my daughter make her own choices of what to eat and how much, she doesn't have any food issues now.

I went grocery shopping with her last night, she's grown up now and lives with her boyfriend and they made out a list. She bought everything on the list and not one thing more. It included fruits, veggies, meat, cheese, milk and also, cookies, chips and pop.

I personally think that food is not the issue for overweight children. It is the lack of physical fitness, shyness, self esteem and parent involvement. Report
What has worked for me is to not bring the kids when I shop and then work with menu planning and lists. I get tired and then buy stuff if I don't have a good plan. On the other hand I can see where its harder to get the kids to be a part of the process that way and I had 3 very picky (very thin) eaters.
Ada Report
When my girls were small, I was not a food fanatic. However, we had a rule: No cereal that turned the milk a different color. That really limited really junky ones. Unfortunately, I should have been a food fanatic since we all have some weight issue or other. Report
I agree with RDSOXBATGIRL so much i find myself saying moderation is the key over & over. I have 3 children, my girls love to try everything & i let them tell me what they like & dont like, But My Son is so picky we believe its even a touch of ocd because nothing can touch or blend, so i like to have my kids go to the store with me to shop & see if anything peeks his interest to try something new. They all love the farmers market as well because almost all the foods there are good for them I just let them pick & choose as we go along & shop. I know that my way isn't for everyone, & i have been known to give in to treats now & then, But as parents we have to teach them whats best for them & sometimes saying no is whats best, if you take them shopping with you and you lead by example & stay away from all the unhealthy stuff yourself & they will learn whats right by your actions. We all have issues with Food, Health,& Nutrition or we wouldn't be here on this site, we 1st have to lean ourselves then teach it to our children. Report
Unfortunate and SAD that these days parents are so busy with two working parents in the household so there's not enough time in the day to work and cook and do EVERYTHING you have to do parents just quiet their kids by giving in to them with everything and sticking them in front of the tv to passify them instead of connecting with them ... I AM SO FORTUNATE to be a stay at home mom and try to instill good eating habits with my 2 year old so it's not effecting me but it makes me so sad to see how other parents feed their kids SO MUCH JUNK and preservatives and that's WHY they may not out live us in this generation -- PARENTS NEED TO WAKE UP!!!! It's is SO MUCH more convenient to pick up ready made foods instead of preparing them yourself, it's also MORE COSTLY as well .... just take ONE DAY and make several dishes for the week .... be prepared and organized and it can work! Report
I have always taken my children grocery shopping with me. from a young age, we have read and compared labels. I also show them how to compare prices to get the better price. I let them help pick out the fruits and vegies in the produce aisles. If you put a bag of chips and celery and dip in front of my kids, they will choose the celery and dip over the chips. I am not saying my kids are perfect. They do ask for junk food on occasion and I will indulge them because I don't want to shelter them all their childhood only to have them move out on their own and balloon up like I did. Report
I rarely take my kids to the store, now that they are teenagers. When they were younger, I would go to the store and their dad would stay at home with them. (I work full-time during the week, so my shopping is done on the weekends.) I am pretty strict about not bringing junk into the house, but now that the kids are old enough to be out and about with friends, it's harder to control what they purchase and eat. I have to hope that our rules and discussions about food have sunk in, and when they are old enough to go shopping for themselves, they will make the right choices. Report
Remember - you are NOT your child's friend. You are the parent. No is not a four letter word. Report
Let us all remember that not everyone lives somewhere where they even HAVE a Trader Joe's or Whole Foods. I don't. It's Wally World or nothing. So, you have to work with what you have.

I'm with the parents who don't take young children grocery shopping. It's just too big a temptation for kids to see their favorite cartoon hero on a box of sugary garbage. They don't know it's garbage. They just know that it's that cartoon guy from the TV, so it must be good!

When kids get a little older, though, I think it's important to involve them in food shopping. Teach them to read labels and make smart choices. I really wish I had learned that growing up - maybe I wouldn't be in this boat now. And there are so many kids that leave mom & dad's to go to college who put on the "freshman 15" - or 20 or 25 or 50 - because they aren't in a controlled food environment anymore and don't know how to make healthy food choices now that they're on their own.

Unfortunately, we have reached a point in our society where a lot of parents want to be "friends" with their kids and not "parents" - they don't want to have and enforce rules. That's a big part of why the current generation is being called the "entitlement" generation. They are more spoiled, more pampered, and more delusional about the world around them than any previous generation.

My kids are grown & gone now with grandkids of their own. I'm sure it is more difficult for parents today than when I had kids with me in the grocery store. There are so many more choices & you have nutrition info on labels to read so that it takes longer to do your shopping. I used to speed through and my kids had to keep up with me so I didn't give them time to think that they "needed" everything. Good luck, young parents! Report
I think it is more a question of discipline than trying to be healthy. Kids are going to ask for the sweet and unhealthy stuff but it is up to the parents to offer different choices and to say "no" when necessary. Stand in the cereal isle with parents and kids and it becomes clear that it is easier to give in to a child than to parent. Report
I have an 8-month-old so I don't have to worry about this yet, but I do need to start my "plan of attack" against this type of marketing. I mostly shop at Trader Joe's, though, and they don't have food with cartoon characters on it. Report
I do not take my child grocery shopping unless it we go to the farmer's market. Kids cannot eat what their parents don't buy. Report
Here's a thought: don't shop at conventional stores! Our kids go to the farmers' market for produce and visit the farm where our meat/poultry come from. They also go to Trader Joe's occasionally and a local independently owned grocery. Yes, those have treats and some junk food, but they are limited and not glaringly advertised. And yes - I totally agree - it's the parent's obligation to be a parent and just say no most of the time! Report
I try not to take my 5 year old to the grocery store because she always finds some little "treat" she wants and it is usually quite over priced. What I do is give her a choice of a yogurt treat or a juice box treat and that usually satisfies her. We are lucky because we don't have a TV so we don't have the product influence that we would if we did. Report
My mother always took me grocery shopping with her. I looked forward to it. Now, I know how to make a list, methodically shop the aisles, compare prices, plan meals, etc...I had a few years of unhealthy missteps but overall the benefits of the life skills I learned from going comissary shopping (grocery shopping on the military base) with my mother far outweighed any negatives. The older Report
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