Health Matters: Don’t get caught in a food marketing trap

Companies view children as having significant purchasing power because of their influence on parents and caregivers


Children are often the focus of food marketing campaigns. Companies view children as having significant purchasing power because of their influence on parents and caregivers. Many of these campaigns influence children’s food preferences, food choices and the products they request and the results are not always healthy.


Children are often targeted in the grocery store through packaging, labelling, pricing and product placement. Food products use bright colours, characters, shapes, and flavours to grab the attention of children. Manufacturers pay extra to have their product located at eye level, at the end of aisles and at the cashier in the hopes that their attractively packaged products will be noticed by children. Many products marketed to children are high in sugar, fat, and salt. With the increasing rates of childhood obesity in Canada the food preferences and choices of children is a growing concern.


Parents can learn to successfully navigate the grocery store and avoid the lure and temptation of less healthy options for children. Here’s a couple tips to help encourage healthy food choices in the grocery store.


Look beyond the flashy claims on the product label. Some food packages contain misleading claims about the product. For instance, a beverage package may use big colourful fonts to draw attention to its high vitamin and mineral content; however, it may not be as obvious that the beverage also contains lots of sugar because the food manufacturer does not draw attention to this information. Check the Nutrition Facts table, especially the percent daily value and the ingredient list for a more accurate description of what a product actually contains.


Bring two grocery lists to the store- one for yourself and one for your child. Make sure the lists include healthy choices. Children can help grocery shop by looking for items on their list. A list will help them stay focused and they will be less distracted by other products in the grocery store. If children are influenced by labels and placement of less healthy food, divert their attention back to the items still needed on their grocery list.


Make sure your child has eaten something before going to the grocery store with you. If necessary, provide a healthy snack to occupy them while shopping. A hungry shopper, whether a child or adult, is more likely to be tempted by unhealthy foods.


So next time you and the kids head to the grocery store do a little planning, make some lists and don’t forget to think critically about all those flashy claims right before your eyes.


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