1106 W. Randol Mill Road, Suite 100

Arlington, TX 76012

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No matter where you go or what you do – turn on the TV, log into email, wait for a movie to start, step inside just about any kind of a store – you’re apt to be bombarded with marketing for unhealthy food products.

One of the primary targets? Our kids.

kids watching screenAs we noted last week, kids are highly influenced to eat foods they see marketed on TV, one of many factors contributing to childhood obesity. Now, new research in Pediatrics shows how that trend goes for big screen offerings, as well.

For the study, 31 G- and PG-rated films from 2012 to 2015 were evaluated for their “obesity-promoting content and weight-stigmatizing messages.” The raters documented how frequently the content included eating or negative messages around weight.

Let’s just say the answer was “often.”

All 31 movies included obesity-promoting content; most common were unhealthy foods (87% of movies, 42% of segments), exaggerated portion sizes (71%, 29%), screen use (68%, 38%), and sugar-sweetened beverages (61%, 24%). Weight-based stigma, such as a verbal insult about body size or weight, was observed in 84% of movies and 30% of segments.

So on the one hand, you have depictions that suggest behaviors that contribute to weight gain, and on the other, weight gain is scorned. Talk about mixed signals!

Other research suggests that kids’ eating behavior may be directly affected by depictions in film. One recent study of product placement in films found that

branding and obesogenic messaging in children’s movies influenced some choices that children made about snack foods immediately following viewing, especially food with greatest exposure time in the film.

While such studies acknowledge that there’s more to learn about the long-term effects of this psychological game, it’s hard to see much good come of this, just reinforcement of the unhealthy eating patterns so predominant in our culture.

That’s why it’s all the more crucial that we provide more healthful models for our kiddos to follow. For just as kids may mimic what they see in the media, so they may just as well follow the lead of their parents and caregivers.

One of the main reasons parents turn to drive-thru, carryout, or frozen meals is simple convenience. We’re all busy. Our kids are busy. Pre-made meals can seem to save the day – but only if we’re thinking in the short term.

Consider the long-term inconveniences of the chronic health problems that arise from diet – oral and systemic alike – and the short term benefits shrink.

Fortunately, with a little planning and prep, healthful eating – real food you make at home from whole foods combined by human hands – can become just as convenient. Consider incorporating some of the following practices into your routine:

  1. No time to grocery shop? Many stores have started offering home delivery again or will bag the food and have it available for pickup. This can be a huge timesaver. Check with your local stores to see if they offer this service.

  2. Meal prep on days off. If there are one or two days during the week with fewer activities, try to spend a little time prepping veggies or marinating proteins. One of the biggest time-sucks is prepping veggies (some of the most important ingredients you can use). Chopping, dicing or marinating on the weekend can make for some easy cooking on the weeknights.

  3. When cooking, cook a little extra. Consider doubling recipes to have an entire meal ready for another night.

  4. Consider a pressure cooker to easily turn vegetables and protein into a quick soup. You can even bake potatoes or hard boil eggs in pressure cookers, in a fraction of the time.

  5. Conversely, consider a slow-cooker that you can start early then effectively ignore until meal time.

  6. Some restaurants are better than others. When you really do want someone else to do the cooking, consider restaurants that might include locally sourced foods or at least feature foods that are organic and sustainably raised. You may even find farm-to-table options that could be both healthy and educational for the family.

Even starting out by giving up one or two days of fast food can make a huge difference. And gradually, you may find that this becomes easier to incorporate into your every day routine (and easier on your wallet).

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