Your Tahoe Health: Can you pass the heart health food test with your kids? | SierraSun.com

Your Tahoe Health: Can you pass the heart health food test with your kids?

Jill Whisler
Special to the Sun
Add two colors to every meal — not junk food, however — to help your children have healthy hearts.
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Children’s understanding of advertising

Up to four years: advertisements seen as entertainment.

Ages six to seven years: believe advertisements provide information.

Ages seven to eight years: cannot distinguish between information and intent to persuade.

Ages ten to twelve years: can understand motives and aims of advertising, but most unable to explain sales techniques.

TRUCKEE, Calif. — Open up the cupboards. Do you see packaging marketed toward children? When you go out to eat, do your children go right to the “Kids Menu?”

Food marketing to children and the high sugar, salt, and fat content of many “kid friendly” foods has been identified as a key player in the national obesity crisis facing American children today.

B-FIT, a program of Tahoe Forest Health System, is highlighting National Heart Health Month during February in TTUSD classrooms.

Food marketing to children has grown into a multi-billion dollar industry, which is why marketing tactics are now being scrutinized by the news media and government programs.

Food regulators would like the industry to either stop advertising to children or make healthier foods — not just health claims on packages, such as “all natural.

Why can’t there be a Tony the Tiger of apples or a Toucan Sam of asparagus?

But the food industry knows what they are doing. They know who to target to and how to increase sales, and they’re selling to you and your kids!

Why are many highly marketed foods so un-heart healthy? Sugar, salt and fat. It’s that simple and it’s that addictive!

What’s best for children?

There’s good reason why one in every three children in this country are overweight or obese and why we have seen an increase in cholesterol problems in children.

Foods, such as cereals, candies and fast food are high in sugar, salt and fat. They are cheap to produce and yield high profits for food manufactures, grocery stores and fast food restaurants.

In addition to commercials on TV, food and beverages are marketed to young children and teens through a wide range of marketing channels. They are promoted in nearly every environment where a kid might study, play, hang out, or eat.

Public health professionals are not only concerned about the quantity and types of advertising targeted at children and youth, they are also alarmed about the nutritional quality of products most heavily marketed to children.

Dairy — great for blood pressure + great source of protein = great snack? Yogurt targeted to kids, however, is not as healthy as the claims may lead you to believe.

In one organic squeeze tube, you may be getting 4-5 teaspoons of sugar. Every 4 grams of sugar is a teaspoon. Some of these yogurts have 23 grams of sugar!

As parents who want what’s best for their children, we understand that it can be hard to take a good, healthy approach to eat fewer foods high in sugar, salt and fat.

What to do?

The first step is to reduce the amount of TV your kids watch. Get outside and play! 60 minutes a day improves the mind and the heart!

Second, add two colors to every meal! Ketchup and Cheetos do NOT count. Build a smoothie in the morning or serve an appetizer of raw vegetables and dip to knock out a couple servings before the meal!

Next, try to make more home cooked meals, which are always healthier. Encourage your kids to cook with you! You may include some less healthy foods, since you don’t want to forcibly restrict any foods, which may lead your child to sneak what’s forbidden. Treats are OK in moderation.

As Ellyn Satter states in her book, “Your Child’s Weight” — “Your jobs is to find the middle-ground with regard to feeding — to be supportive without being controlling.”

Jill Whisler, MS, RD, is a member of the Rethink Healthy Team, a service of Tahoe Forest Health System. Please contact gvannatta@tfhd.com for more information.