Would you want the government to ban “junk foods” aimed at kids?
At 19 months, my son Julian doesn't know who Dora the Explorer or SpongeBob is, let alone request the yogurts adorned with their images-but I know that some of my friends who have older kids struggle with this very thing.
With them in mind, I was interested to read this week that officials from the Federal Trade Commission, the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control proposed restricting certain "unhealthy" foods for kids. It's all part of a push to curb childhood obesity, a problem I care about both as a nutritionist and a mom. (Click here for tips on getting your kids to love healthy foods.)
The proposed guidelines focus on foods that exceed certain thresholds for saturated fat (1 gram), trans fat (0.5 gram), added sugars (13 grams) and sodium (200 mg) per serving. (Why should you care about added sugars?) The guidelines, which will be submitted to Congress next summer, could have an impact on whether characters like SpongeBob SquarePants will be "selling" our kids sugary yogurts, granola bars and cereals.
I'd much prefer that the food industry do without the cartoon characters and that we could all focus on teaching our kids to love nutritious whole foods because they taste good-and because they're good for you. "Because they help you to grow big and strong." (A good catch phrase to use with kids.) Find delicious, healthy dinner recipes for kids here.
Stonyfield's YoKids yogurt-which would meet the proposed guidelines, by the way-features happy, healthy kids doing fun and active things, like skateboarding. Now that's cool.
But if plastering Dora on healthy foods like cucumbers (our Test Kitchen manager Stacy noticed that at the market the other day) or baby carrots gets kids to eat more vegetables, then, sure, go for it. The proposed guidelines also set standards for what foods provide "meaningful contribution to a healthful diet"-things like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, lean meats and poultry, eggs, nuts, seeds and beans.