Analyze It: How to Judge Food Advertisements
As you watch commercials with your kids, experts say you should break down the information, using it as ''teachable moment." Encourage children of all ages to rethink the food combinations they see on commercials, says Linda Bartholomay, RD, manager of outpatient nutrition therapy at Sanford Health in Fargo, N.D. One example is burgers, fries, and soda. You can suggest healthy substitutes, such as milk, fruit, or a baked potato.
Here's how to further analyze commercials, depending on your child's age:
Preschoolers: Play a game based on the stoplight concept, Greenfield says. Ask your preschooler, "Is this a 'green' food, one we can eat a lot of because it's healthy? Or is it 'yellow,' one that can be eaten sometimes, but not every day? Or is it a 'red' food, one that should be eaten only at special times?" Greenfield then suggests labeling snacks as green, yellow, or red to help reinforce the lessons from the game.
Elementary school-aged kids: Encourage them to think about ''how food marketers get us to buy their products," such as using familiar cartoon characters or fun shapes.
Tweens: Challenge tweens to think about what is missing from the commercial. Ask them: "What are they not telling us about this food?"
Teens: With teens, talk about the nutritional value of the foods and show them how to look at the food label. If celebrities are promoting the product, Greenfield says, point out that they are doing it for money. Remind them that just because a famous person is endorsing it doesn't mean the product is good for you.
You can also ask your teen if he thinks the commercial plays to his desire to be popular, says Bartholomay. She cites sugared-drink commercials that give the impression that athletes use these beverages. Show kids the nutritional information, pointing out the high sugar content.