Popular cartoon characters such as Shrek, SpongeBob, Dora the Explorer are attracting kids to junk food. Parents have to remember that healthy food choices start with childhood. Researchers found that the branding of American food product packaging with characters such as Dora the Explorer drives preschoolers to choose higher-calorie, less healthful foods over more nutritious options.
The findings, reported online June 21 in Pediatrics, reflect on the food preferences of 4- to 6-year-old boys and girls who found foods tastier when the packaging bore the likenesses of beloved TV and movie characters.
Fifty percent of children say that food from a package decorated with a cartoon celebrity such as Shrek tastes better than the same exact food from a plain package, according to a new study.
The use of TV and movie characters on food packaging is “designed to access certain feelings, memories, and associations,” says Dr. Thomas Robinson, M.D., a professor of child health at the Stanford University School of Medicine. “If you associate certain products with things that are otherwise considered fun, it’s going to make those products seem more desirable.”
Cartoon characters tend to appear on junk food, which makes health experts even more concerned about the magnetic effect they have on kids. Although characters such as Dora and SpongeBob SquarePants have been used to market fruits and vegetables, they are most often used on chips, candy, and other unhealthy snacks.
“Parents may not set out to buy unhealthy products,” says the lead author of the study, Christina Roberto, M.S., a doctoral student at Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, in New Haven, Connecticut. “But kids can be really, really persuasive. They see them and they want them, and it gets difficult to have that battle in the grocery store.”
So parents, you need to think twice before buying food for your kids and remember healthy choices start at an early age!
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