Today, the WordPress homepage featured this blog entry: about proposed federal regulations on what foods can be marketed to children. The guidelines listed (in case you don’t want to read the article) are as follows, copied & pasted directly from the blog:
Food must contain at least 50% by weight of one or more of the following: fruit; vegetable; whole grain; fat-free or low-fat milk or yogurt; fish; extra lean meat or poultry; eggs; nuts and seeds; or beans.
Food must contain one of more of the following per RACC (Reference Amounts Customarily Consumed Per Eating Occasion):
* 0.5 cups fruit or fruit juice
* 0.6 cups vegetables or vegetable juice
* 0.75 oz. equivalent of 100% whole grain
* 0.75 cups milk or yogurt; 1 oz. natural cheese; 1.5 oz. processed cheese
* 1.4 oz. meat equivalent of fish or extra lean meat or poultry
* 0.3 cups cooked dry beans
* 0.7 oz. nuts or seeds
* 1 egg or egg equivalent
Foods marketed to children must not contain more than the following amounts of saturated fat, trans fat, sugar and sodium.
* Saturated Fat: 1 g or less per RACC and not more than 15% of calories
* Trans Fat: 0 g per RACC (<0.5 g)
* Sugar: No more than 13 g of added sugars per RACC
* Sodium: No more than 200 mg per portion
I have to say, I take issue with these guidelines, for a couple of reasons.
1) Most kids are picky eaters. If you were to offer a child a bowl of plain Corn Flakes and a bowl of Lucky Charms, and did not show the child the cereal boxes or any advertisements containing Lucky the Leprechaun, they're going to choose the Lucky Charms over the Corn Flakes. Why? Because Lucky Charms are sugary and delicious, while Corn Flakes are not. Even if you took the color out of the marshmallows & made them all one "boring" shape (circle, square, etc), Lucky Charms just taste better – they are more pleasing to the palette of a 5-year-old because they are loaded with sugar. Heck, I'm 23 years old, and I STILL prefer Lucky Charms to Corn Flakes. Does this make them healthy or a better choice than Corn Flakes? No. But if your child won't EAT the Corn Flakes, then they're getting even less nutrition than they would if they were eating the Lucky Charms. It's better that they at least eat something than for them to scrape it all into the dog's dish or the garbage disposal when you're not looking.
2) On the other hand, most kids do not purchase their own food. Parents are not FORCED to buy unhealthy food marketed at children, just because the kid wants it. Will your 5-year-old throw a fit in the grocery store because you won't buy them the cereal with Hannah Montana on the box? Probably. Does that mean you HAVE to buy it? No. You can tell your child "no," stand your ground, and pick out a different cereal.
Are children in the US getting fatter? Absolutely. But the solution to this is not government regulation of food advertisements. I don't understand why the government feels the need to insert itself into our most basic daily decisions. It is not their business what I feed my children. It is the parents' responsibility to strike a balance between food that is healthy and food that kids like. There are loads of healthy, kid-friendly recipes on the web at sites like allrecipes.com. It is also important that parents encourage their children to exercise and to set a good example by being active themselves. If the government feels that it MUST insert itself into the childhood obesity situation, it should work on improving school lunches (already underway in many locations) and extending (or, in some cases, reinstating) recess. I would encourage states to consider providing recess into middle and high school, in addition to gym class. These are the solutions for combating childhood obesity. They start in the home, with the parents & children – not with government, advertising agencies, and food corporations.