Junk food advertising to kids

One in four Australian children is overweight or obese. Is the all-pervasive junk food advertising to children part of the problem?
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05.What can parents do?

According to Kerin O’Dea, professor of population health and nutrition at the University of South Australia, the community can make incremental healthy changes, and these can cause a positive shifts in community perceptions and behaviour.

In addition to regulation of advertising and marketing, health experts CHOICE spoke to want to see...

  • State governments mandate, and enforce, healthy foods in school canteens and vending machines.
  • Physical education teachers employed (rather than class teachers taking sport) and the current requirement for schools to offer 120 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise a week to be enforced.
  • Mandatory kilojoule labelling in fast food stores extended nationally.
  • Better food labelling that is easier to understand.

What can parents do? 

  • Explain to kids how too much high-kilojoule, low-nutrition food can contribute to weight gain, which can then lead to health issues such as diabetes and heart disease. 
  • Reinforce healthy eating messages with simple guidelines like “Go For 2 & 5” (two serves of fruit and five of veggies per day).
  • Distinguish between “everyday foods” (healthy foods) and “sometimes foods” (junk foods).
  • Reduce sugary drinks (fruit juice and soft drinks) and treats in lunchboxes.
  • Offer smaller serving sizes.
  • Sit down to dinner together with the TV off.
  • Restrict screen time to two hours a day.
  • Keep an eye on what your kids watch and the apps they are downloading.
  • Teach kids about how advertising and marketing works so they are not simply passive consumers of media messages.

What can communities do?

  • Teaching kids to cook and participating in school kitchen garden projects will help kids learn about nutrition and where food comes from.
  • Many schools are resistant to converting to healthy canteens and vending machines, saying they need the money to fund school programs - but when parents and schools find out there are cases where canteens with healthy food experienced higher sales, they are more inclined to make healthy changes.
  • A Melbourne mum launched a change.org petition calling on Little Athletics to drop McDonald’s as a sponsor after her daughter was given a McDonald’s voucher as an award. At the time of writing, the petition has more than 12,000 signatures.
  • For more information on food advertising and resources for parents, see Junkbusters, The Parents' Jury, Obesity Policy Coalition, or the Healthy Kids Association.


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