We have conversations about food all the time in my house. It usually revolves around what we want to eat, or are currently eating and often highlights favourite flavours and bites. While we talk to our kids, and have for years, about the importance of healthy decision making when it comes to what we eat, we are also a family who loves sweets, treats and sometimes not-great-for-you foods.
The key, I feel, as a parent, is to share with our kids, openly and honestly, information about the food we eat. If something is high in sugar, we will explain that. We may not ban it, but will talk about why it’s not the best pre-dinner snack, or even daily treat. While it’s no secret in our home that mommy loves donuts, the kids know that they aren’t replacing my fruits and vegetables, that I continue to eat balanced meals, and that I shouldn’t feel guilt indulging from time to time.
Positive food messaging isn’t always easy and find ways to relay the message of healthy eating, to young children, can be rather difficult at times. While we have always been open about choices, and work to provide them with plenty of healthy options, when left to choose on their own, the kids fall into the same trap I personally do at times – the quicker, sweeter treat. However, when we sit for meals, or when they ask for a bowl of cherries or slices of cheese for an after school snack, I like to think that our messaging is working and we continue to encourage them.
We talk a lot about beverages that fill us up in a not-wonderful way. That juice isn’t a necessity, and that drinking more water is a must. The kids now ask for water more often than they ever have (my son prefers ‘bubbly’ water, while my daughter likes it flat. Before love it ice cold). These are all steps in the right direction. However, as parents, we aren’t the only source of information for them anymore. They see what other kids are eating, what television commercials recommend they should eat, and what their favourite sports star is marketing.
What happens when we are in the grocery aisle and they see a cartoon character adorning a box of cookies or cereal? I think the same thing that happens when I see a character I love on something – I want to buy it. For kids, it indicates something fun, familiar and they want it. Marketing works this way, it’s meant to appeal to our emotional connection to something fun, exciting or that we love. It’s hard for kids to understand that the goal is to sell the product, not necessarily provide them with the best option.
But for kids, of course they want it. They see commercials selling something to them all the time. My son can rhyme off a lot of fast food tag lines thanks to his watching sports highlights. When they watch children’s TV that has commercials, they see plenty of school snacks that they want – and that I wouldn’t want to buy often (if at all).
I don’t believe in preventing the kids from having treats. Again, I think the conversation about what we buy and what we eat has to happen constantly, and that feels like an uphill battle sometimes. We are fighting against marketing efforts that frankly, we ourselves have a hard time ignoring. It’s not a perfect system, and we don’t always make the best choices either, but I really believe that it’s difficult for kids to navigate on their own at times.
This is why I’m happy to see the City of Ottawa is reviewing food marketing to kids and locations where this happens. We all have opinions on the topic. They are asking parents to fill out their survey to get a better idea of what we would like to see happen and what we think is currently happening when it comes to unhealthy food marketing and kids.
Here is the link: www.haveyoursayottawa.ca
It took me about 10-15 minutes to fill it out, and mostly, the questions revolve around where we are currently seeing food marketing to kids across the City and where we want to see that stopping.
No matter the age of your kids, I encourage you to check out the survey and have your say.
Participate in the survey by clicking here: www.haveyoursayottawa.ca
This post is brought to you by the City of Ottawa but the opinions and images are my own.