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Newsbites: April 1st

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Two (somewhat) related studies were released this week highlighting how many food ads our kids really see on television, and how television watching plays a big role in the quality of the family meal.

The Kaiser Family Foundation is once again exposing food marketing aimed at our children in their new report "Food for Thought: Television Food Advertising to Children in the United States" (you may recall back in August I wrote a post on their study First Analysis of Online Food Advertising Targeting Children, detailing the amount of food marketing our kids see online on a regular basis). Of all the television ads kids see, 22-32% of them are for food, the most for any other products. However, on programming specifically meant for kids 12 and under, half of all ads are for food products.

Tweens, the 8-12 year olds, are seeing the most at 21 a day, translating to more than 7600 a year. Teens see about 6000 a year and the little ones about 4400 (the younger kids may watch less TV and the popular networks like Disney and PBS have limited or no advertising). Out of almost 9000 food ads reviewed in the study, 34% were for snacks and candy, 28% for cereal, and 10% for fast foods (this low percentage actually surprised me). In contrast 4% were for dairy products and 1% for fruit juices. Zero percent promoted fruits and vegetables. You can read the full report and also view a webcast of the press conference at http://www.kff.org/entmedia/entmedia032807pkg.cfm.

In that same vein of television watching, the American Dietetic Association released a study today showing that when low income families with pre-school children ate family meals together with the television off, they ate more fruits and vegetables. When the TV was turned on during the family meal, fewer fruits and vegetables were consumed. Eeks... So it's not enough just to eat together, you've got to do it with the TV off. This is not a new recommendation but when you think about all the food ads our kids are seeing and you look at this study it kind of all comes together. The abstract of this study isn't available online yet but should be in the next day or so at www.adajournal.org.

These studies also speak to the recommendation for parents to restrict television viewing to 1-2 hours a day. Cuts down on the junk food ad exposure and hopefully it encourages eating together as a family with the TV off!

Have a fruit and veggie filled week with the TV off.....
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About the Author

Registered dietitian Andrea N. Giancoli is a nutrition advocate, consultant and educator.

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