Food branding and advertisements can affect children’s food choices. Most of the time, this refers to the advertisements for mostly unhealthy products – sugary breakfast cereals, cookies, fruit snacks, and other common childhood snacks. Think of Tony the Tiger promoting Frosted Flakes, or fruit snacks shaped like Scooby Doo characters.
But what if branding could be used in a more positive way? A recent study
set out to examine just that.
Researchers enrolled 208 children from upstate New York into a study to examine the effects of branding on food choices. The children went through a lunch line where they chose an entrée and then had the option to choose 1 or both of the last items: a cookie and/or an apple. The test was carried out over 5 days, with the 1st and last days being controls – neither item was branded. On the 3 test days, the following combinations were used:
- Elmo sticker-branded cookie and unbranded apple
- Unbranded cookie and Elmo sticker-branded apple
- Unbranded cookie and Unknown-character-branded apple
The results? The children were more likely to choose an apple when it had an Elmo sticker on it. In fact, almost double the number of apples were chosen!
Somewhat surprisingly, the Elmo sticker did not influence their choice of the cookie. Perhaps the children already liked cookies to the degree where branding did not influence choices. Apples are typically a “harder sell” then cookies, so perhaps the positive branding worked better in that situation. There was also no effect of the unknown character branding on the apple, indicating children may be more attracted to branding from characters they already know in television and stories.
It would be interesting to see how this could work in elementary school lunch rooms with positive branding on the fruit and vegetable choices. If you think it would be successful in your child’s school, ask your school wellness committee to try this out! Also, consider a way you can use this in the home environment: you could place fun stickers on the healthy snacks to encourage children to choose those options. For younger kids, this might be an easy way to make clear which snacks are appropriate "everyday snacks."
What do you think? Can we use food branding to our advantage for health? Or will kids get over the excitement of it after a while?
While breastfeeding rates have improved, there is still work to be done. The CDC reports that 23.1% of women never breastfeed at all. In addition, just 47.2% of women breastfeed until 6 months - and just 16% of women were exclusively breastfeeding at this 6 month mark (meaning 47% may be breastfeeding sometimes but have also introduced formula or other foods). At 1 year, these numbers drop even further, with just 25.5% of women breastfeeding at their child’s first birthday.
So what’s going on? What problems do women face? Here are a look at just a few of the many factors that influence these rates…
- Trouble with feeding – There are many minor issues and challenges that may arise and cause a woman to stop breastfeeding. She may feel like she’s not producing enough milk, the baby is not latching on properly, she struggles to find time pumping, etc.
- Poor body image – Women may feel self-conscious about lifting their shirt up or pulling it down in public, especially with changes their body underwent during pregnancy and birth.
- Cultural and societal issues – Certain cultures and societies value breastfeeding and seeing women breastfeeding public is considered normal. In other cultures where public breastfeeding does not regularly take place, people may feel uncomfortable with it. People may make rude comments or look at the woman in a rude manner.
- Partner jealousy – Partners may feel jealous when a mother decides to breastfeed for many reasons. They may feel like they are not involved in the feeding process, or they may feel jealous of the time the woman must spend with the baby when breastfeeding. Partners may also feel jealous or uncomfortable that the woman is exposing her body in public.
- Media – I rarely see babies being breastfed in movies and television shows. This applies to both fictional shows and reality television. One of the most frustrating things to watch was a season reunion of 16 and pregnant, where an audience member asked why none of the moms breastfed. They all gave reasons/excuses (it hurt, etc) and Dr. Drew followed up by saying that most people don’t realize how hard breastfeeding is. Rather than turning this into an opportunity to promote breastfeeding, they basically gave the audience and viewers more reasons not to breastfeed.
Solving these issues to improve breastfeeding rates will require several different angles. For the immediate issue of trouble when trying to feed and poor body image, women need to know about and have access to resources that are affordable, whether it’s a nurse or ob/gyn, WIC, La Leche League, a peer group, or a lactation consultant.
But the larger problem is at the societal level. Why do we look at breastfeeding as dirty? Marketing campaigns for beer and restaurants can use scantily clad females to convince men to purchase their products – yet breastfeeding mothers are accused of making people uncomfortable in public? There are 13 year old girls taking photos of themselves in bikinis to post to facebook - yet facebook has a history of pulling photos of breastfeeding mothers for being ‘inappropriate.’
I'm sorry - this double standard is ridiculous. Public breastfeeding is not taboo. It is not exposing your body for a sexual reason – you are feeding your child. At a societal level, breastfeeding needs to be more widely promoted and accepted. And to do this, it needs to be seen more often – in public and in the media. The more that women breastfeed in public, the more commonplace it will seem, and the more other women should feel comfortable with it. The same goes for portraying it as a natural part of life in the media.
If I’m blessed to have a child and breastfeed in the future, you better believe I’ll be out in public feeding my baby. You don’t want to look at my breasts? Don’t. Turn your head, look at something else, and let me enjoy bonding with my child.
Bring on the boobs! World Breastfeeding Week falls August 1st through the 7th, celebrating breastfeeding progress and promoting breastfeeding as the preferred choice of infant food. It commemorates the passing of the Innocenti Declaration in 1990 by WHO and UNICEF to promote and support breastfeeding.
In light of this, we’re excited to share a few posts throughout the week related to breastfeeding promotion. Most people know that breastfeeding is recommended and that it’s good for the baby. But did you know how good it is? Check out these benefits of breastfeeding:
- Improves immunity. Colostrum, the early breast milk in the first few days of feeding, is rich in antibodies that help build your baby’s immune system. And regular breast milk also contains a whole host of factors that help boost immunity, with breast-fed babies experiencing fewer respiratory infections and diarrhea compared to formula fed babies.
- Just the right nutrition. Breast milk provides the balance of carbohydrates, protein, and fat that your baby needs along with lots of vitamins and minerals and proper hydration.
- Healthier over life. Breastfed babies have less risk of developing overweight/obesity and diabetes throughout life.
- Healthier mom. Breastfeeding can help mothers reduce their risk of diabetes, certain cancers and postpartum depression.
- Money saving. Formula can be expensive. While breast milk is not necessarily ‘free’ – you do need more food as a lactating woman and may invest in a pump – it is still generally less expensive than formula feeding.
- Promotes bonding. Breast feeding helps to promote a strong bond between mother and child. Close physical contact helps to soothe newborns.
- Better for society. The US Department of Health and Human Services reports that the US would save about $13 billion per year if all babies were breastfed, since breastfed babies have lower medical costs compared to formula fed babies.
Breastfeeding is recommended as the sole nutrition source for infants until 6 months. After that, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends complimentary foods are introduced while breastfeeding is continued for 1 year or more as mutually desired by the mother and child.
If you’re having trouble breastfeeding, try working with your nurse or ob/gyn, WIC, La Leche League, a peer group, or a lactation consultant – all of whom are great resources for helping you work through any challenges you’re experiencing.
All this being said – there are definitely some circumstances when a woman can’t breastfeed. Perhaps there is a medical indication to provide a special formula, or maybe the mother experiences problems producing milk. If you’re a mom in a situation like this – don’t beat yourself up. You are not a failure. Formula is a fine alternative if you can’t breastfeed. You still love your baby and will make the best choices that you can given the situation!
After not feeling well earlier, I was excited to be back on my feet tonight to attend Stop & Shop's first "Healthy Kids Summit." Partners included the New England Patriots, the New England Dairy Council, Hockomock YMCA, and Body by Brandy – all coming together with Stop & Shop to promote healthy eating and increased physical activity among families.
The event was geared towards parents and children, and was held at the Dana-Farber Field House, giving children a first-hand look at where the New England Patriots practice. Their excitement only grew when New England Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski showed up, signing autographs and posing for pictures before joining other community leaders in a panel discussion. In addition to Stephen Gostkowski, other panel members included Julie Menounos, Stop & Shop’s first in-store nutritionist; Ed Hurley, president of the Hockomock YMCA; and Karen Zangari, registered dietitian at Memorial Hospital in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.
Stephen Gostkowski gave insight into his personal experiences with eating right and exercise. “My parents always made us go outside and play and be active, and it’s something we always enjoyed to do,” Gostkowski said. He emphasized the importance of getting in 60 minutes of physical activity every day, as well as eating healthy snacks. “I think nutrition goes hand in hand (with being active).”
So what does the New England Patriots player like to eat for snacks? “Pistachios, yougurt, granola, apples, carrots, and Clif bars.”
The rest of the panel also gave other great nutrition and fitness tips. A few worth highlighting:
- Before grocery shopping, make a list...and plan your weekly menu to save time and money.
- Shop the perimeter of the grocery store first for fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and dairy - then head to the inner aisles only for staples like whole grain bread, beans, and brown rice.
- Eat breakfast everyday.
- Choose whole fruit rather than fruit juice most of the time.
- Stay away from sugar sweetened beverages.
- Try to be active as a family, and choose fun activities.
- Utilize resources that are available, including local facilities like the YMCA, your grocery store's healthy recipes, Fuel Up to Play 60, and MyPlate.
Every year, I’m lucky enough to be invited to Boston University to be a guest lecturer in their community nutrition class (a class I went through back in my undergraduate days). I speak about childhood and school nutrition, and love sharing my experiences from teaching elementary nutrition education classes with these aspiring dietitians. And it’s always fun seeing their professor, Joan Salge Blake. She has been someone who has always inspired me, and has got to be one of the most energetic and passionate dietitians I know!
While working on my presentation tonight for their class on Wednesday, I pulled out a few statistics that I wanted to share. Take a minute to consider these numbers: 20
Percent of children aged 6 to 11 who are obese, according to the CDC
. If your child struggles with overweight and obesity, try to make healthy eating and exercise a family priority! Parental example and modeling are very important, especially for younger children.7 hours and 38 minutes
The average amount of time an 8 to 18 year old child reports using media
– including mobile media, television, video games, and the computer. Students who report more screen time tend to have poorer grades in school. Think about setting limits on screen time – the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than 2 hours of screen time per day. Focus on other activities, especially fun ways your child can be active – like rollerblading, dancing, or riding bikes.38%
The increased odds of passing the math MCAS (Massachusetts standardized testing system) with each 1-unit increase in the number of fitness tests passed (Chomitz et al, 2009
). The odds of passing the English Language MCAS increased by 24% with each 1-unit increase in fitness scores. Recent research in many locations and with many age groups supports that students who are more active tend to have better grades and standardized test scores. Even a single bout of exercise can help improve focus and learning!