Good evidence suggests that parental perception is key in determining which foods are consumed in the home, a fact which manufacturers and advertisers clearly understand. Ads embellishing the health benefits of kids’ foods may foster common misconceptions, leading to increased consumption of nutritionally marginal foods. Popular items like fruit juices and yogurt are often high in sugar and contain relatively few nutrients, but they are staples in many kids’ diets thanks to the general notion that they are healthy.
Each child is different, and while there may be no one-size-fits-all approach to dealing with childhood obesity, it is helpful to know more about the contributing factors. Over-consumption of juice drinks and snack foods is certainly a problem, especially if these foods are perceived as healthy. Pediatricians must combat parent-directed advertising with appropriate education regarding popular children’s snacks. The American Academy of Pediatrics provides guidelines on juice consumption, recommending only limited amounts. Yogurt should be treated as a portion of a child’s daily dairy intake; the maximum is 2 ½ servings of dairy products total per day for toddlers. Low-sugar cereals made with whole grains may be consumed in moderation, with each serving counting as a serving of grains. Armed with correct information, parents can avoid pitfalls as they strive to foster healthy eating habits for children.
Jennifer A. Emond, Marietta E. Smith, Suman J. Mathur, James D. Sargent, Diane Gilbert-Diamond. Children’s Food and Beverage Promotion on Television to Parents. Pediatrics; November 2015
Fruit Juice and Your Child's Diet, American Academy Of Pediatrics
Dr. Whitney has practiced for over nine years as a general pediatrician, and her interests include helping children develop healthy habits and toddler feeding issues. Connect with Dr. Whitney or follow her on twitter @laurakwhitney.