Fast-Food Commercials Are Effective — And They May Be Making Kids Unhealthy

Advertising is an art and a science that is specifically designed to get into the mind of the beholder and stay there. Commercials targeted at children do just that, and their efficacy is alarming. According to the American Psychological Association, just one ad creates a subconscious preference for a product, drives requests for that product, and is enough to result in a change in the parents’ purchasing habits.

Could children’s exposure to advertising and the resulting changes in family purchasing habits be driving the shocking rates of childhood obesity in our society? And what do we need to do to reverse these damaging trends?

The alarming rise of childhood obesity

It’s no secret that our modern lifestyle choices are sabotaging the health of children and youth, but did you know that one in five children in North America is now obese? Not just overweight, but medically obese. The trend is even spreading to preschool-age children. Experts have suggested that one major contributor to the spread of obesity could be advertising that targets children and perpetuates unhealthy habits.

Advertising has a strong effect on children 

Studies have shown that children under six years of age cannot differentiate between entertainment programming and advertising, and children under eight are not able to discern the persuasive intent of a commercial message.

Of the advertising shown during children’s programming, 50 percent of it is for food, of which 77 percent is for blatantly unhealthy products, and zero percent is for fruit and vegetables. Children between the ages of two and 12 years are exposed to an average of 6,018 advertisements per year. Is it any surprise that they are programmed to crave fast food?!

Screen time may be the culprit 

Clearly, watching too much television can undermine your family’s health in more ways than one. Not only does it discourage physical activity and time outdoors, but it also pollutes children’s minds with advertising messages that perpetuate poor food choices. 

Some positive large-scale measures have been seen or proposed, such as a soda tax to combat childhood obesity, and the banning of certain ads that overtly attract children. But grass-roots efforts in homes across the continent are required to really make a shift. That means committing to healthy changes as a family!

Encouraging healthy habits in your children 

Fast Food Neon signThis sounds obvious, but the absolute best way to change your children’s habits and health is to be a great role model!

If you love to eat fresh, real food and get outside to move your body, so will your children! Try taking the kids to the farmers’ market as a treat on a Saturday, instead of to a fast-food restaurant. Being healthier together can be a fun learning and bonding experience, rather than a burden.

We encourage you to be a part of the whole-food, natural health movement that is working to reverse the chronic health problems and obesity plaguing our society like never before. Education, nutrition and physical activity are simple yet effective tools!

—Liivi Hess

Liivi is an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and is training to become a doula. She inspires women to find peace and personal power by taking control of health and fertility naturally. Liivi‘s passion is ancestral nutrition and primal lifestyle design. She and her partner Will live between Toronto, Canada and Queenstown, New Zealand.


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