Is Food Marketing to Children Harmful?

Ever notice how many food commercials play during Saturday morning cartoons?  Generally, these commercials promote the latest packaged snack cake, chip, sugary cereal, or sugary beverage.  Come on, when was the last time there was a commercial with dancing fruits and vegetables besides the Fruit of the Loom commercials?

So?  What’s the big deal with Saturday cartoon food commercials?  Believe it or not, this kind of aggressive, targeted marketing to children contributes to the childhood obesity epidemic.  It’s not so much the actual advertisement that’s the problem, but the types of foods being advertised that’s the problem.  Most of these foods contain bad ingredients like high fructose corn syrup, trans fats, and/or artificial colors, and they are advertised…over and over again. 

Big food companies spend a large amount of money, $156 million dollars per YEAR, marketing their latest food products (or, shall we say concoctions?)  directly to children.  A study by Yale’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity found that the least healthy cereals are the ones most marketed!  Lucky Charms and Froot Loops contain artificial colors, and are two of the most marketed cereals on TV and the internet.  Check out the real transformation in one kid’s life after he booted artificial colors!  Frosted Flakes, also highly marketed on TV and internet, contains high fructose corn syrup, which is NOT natural, and has been linked to obesity. 


Artificially colored, bright cereal — not good for a healthy morning start.  


Creative Design is a better use for it.

When inundated with bright colors and slogans like “They’re grreat!” children are easily influenced in their food choices.  They do not learn about real food with good ingredients versus processed foods with bad ingredients.  Instead, they beg to buy the latest unhealthy cereal because their favorite character is on the box, or because the commercial was “really cool!”  Usually, with enough whining in the cereal aisle, kids get what they want. 


What kid wouldn’t beg for the cereal with a Mickey Mouse toy inside?

So wait, who are the high-fructose containing cereals REALLY “grrreat” for?  They’re certainly not great for children’s health. 

Advertising unhealthy foods has become such a problem that Michelle Obama, as part of her anti-obesity campaign, asked large food companies to make healthier foods and reduce the marketing of unhealthy foods to children.  In fact, she called for increased marketing of healthy foods.

Will marketing healthier foods help?  Is advertising even a problem?

“Hungry” to know more?  Sites Earth Fare visited for this post:
(1) f.a.c.t.s. (Food Advertising to Children and Teens Score
(2)“Michelle Obama talks anti-obesity to food giants” (AP)
(3)“Food Marketing and Childhood Obesity — A Matter of Policy” (New England Journal of Medicine)
(4)“U-M Researcher Says Preschoolers Understand the Power of Advertising” (University of Michigan)
(5)“Food Marketing to Children and Youth: Threat or Opportunity?” (IOM)


  1. Amber Viera says

    I think that the first lady should also aim at making Healthy Organic food more affordable. Some of the reasons why I don’t buy organic chocolate chip cookies verses chips-ahoy or the walmart brand is because of cost. And when I do go to buy something organic I end up paying two times the cost. I don’t want to eat posion, I want healthy organic foods but I don’t have the budget so I try to buy the healthy foods that have the least amount of perservitives and pesticides. Maybe the food industry should also look at what is best for the people and stop feeding us posion, but that isn’t going to happen. The rich will get richer and the poor, poorer and sicker.

  2. says

    I do believe that the excessive advertising of unhealthy products is one of the many reasons for childhood obesity. But as a parent I can say that, I know that parents are at fault too. Who buys the food for the obese child? Who allows the child to overeat?

    As a parent, I do my best to buy what is healthy for my child. I cook almost everything from scratch. 95% of everything we eat is organic. I serve the appropriate serving to each member of our family and no one gets seconds. Since, I am the one buying the groceries, I don’t waste my money on junk food.

    If you don’t buy and have unhealthy foods around the house, the child will not have them to eat. If they are hungry, they will learn to eat vegetables and fruits that you keep available for them.

    You ask, what about when I am not at home and are around other people who eat unhealthy food products?

    Take yours and your kids healthy snacks everywhere you go! Your family and friends should know how you eat and should respect that. At the same time, don’t be rude to those that don’t realize the importance of eating healthy.
    When you eat out, pick the meal that has been less processed.
    Talk to your kids continuously about eating correctly and how yes, something might taste good, but that doesn’t mean that it is good for our bodies.

    My daughter is almost 4 and she understand the importance of taking care of her body, of eating fruits and vegetables. She knows that water is the best drink for her and that sodas are unhealthy.

    Train a child in the way they should go and when they are old they will not depart from it.

    Train, teach, learn.


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