Food marketing plays an important role in the way the child perceives food. This article highlights the health and psychological implications on children due to the various food marketing / strategies.
Food marketing has been identified as the key factor for childrens’ food preferences, the dietary choices they make and their unhealthy consumption. The younger children are more persuasive to the marketing messages than the older children. They tend to listen to advertisements more than their parents.
The result of such an impact of food marketing is due to high visibility through television commercials, give-aways, celebrity endorsement, promotions at various places like theatres, malls, supermarkets etc. It is not a mere food item that a brand is trying to incorporate in the child’s mind through this but is also working towards building a purchasing habit. Thus, not only the current health but the future health of the child that is at stake. What might appear to be a temporary or fair demand / stubbornness of the child for a product might turn out to be an unhealthy dietary choice with excess salt / sugar / fat in the product. This food choice determines the food preference of the child over a period of time (e.g. preference of sweetness in all the foods, cheese in most of the meals).
The impact of advertising of these unhealthy foods is that the children are more prone to becoming overweight earlier in life due to excessive consumption of sugar, salt or fat in these foods. Childhood obesity is particularly troubling because the extra pounds often start children on the path to health problems that were once considered adult problems — diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. These eating habits are likely to continue into adulthood
Many obese children become obese adults, especially if one or both parents are obese. Children often tease or bully their overweight peers who suffer a loss of self-esteem as a result. Low self-esteem can create overwhelming feelings of hopelessness which can lead to depression in some children who are overweight. Overweight children tend to have more anxiety and poorer social skills than normal-weight children do. These problems might lead children who are overweight to have emotional outbursts at one extreme or to withdraw socially at the other.
A number of studies have highlighted that even amongst the young children there is awareness and recognition of specific food brands which has been found to translate to nagging for those products. Parents can do their part to minimize the impact of junk food advertising and encourage healthy eating in the following manner:
While there are various ways the child can be made to understand the side-effects of the unhealthy foods, one solution does not apply to every child. You can take help of a qualified and an experienced child nutritionist to help you and in the course of counseling the child will learn the value of healthy eating habits, which they will carry for life.