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2018-19 Eat Smart. Play Hard Magazine

2018-19 Magazine

2018-19 Eat Smart. Play Hard. Magazine

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I have noticed that lots of foods have cartoon characters on them. Do cartoon characters encourage kids to eat less healthfully?

Advertisers sometimes use “cartoon spokes-characters” to attract kids’ attention. Because this is advertising, parents really need to pay attention to which foods are being sold by this method.

Advertisers sometimes use “cartoon spokes-characters” to attract kids’ attention. Because this is advertising, parents really need to pay attention to which foods are being sold by this method.

Cartoon spokes-characters have appeared on a number of very healthful products, such as fresh baby carrots and even frozen veggies. Nevertheless, some foods  advertised this way are less nutritious and more processed, with added sugars and salt. Cartoon spokes-characters can increase intake if the child relates to that character.

Research NDSU researchers conducted shows that in a school lunch situation, more kids will take and eat more canned green beans if a spokes-character is promoting the canned beans. A sign was placed above the green beans with the cartoon spokes-character saying, “Got Beans?”

The bottom line: Parents are the gate-keepers, so they should encourage healthful choices. If cartoon spokes-characters promote these healthful choices, so much the better. Kids will identify with the character and may consume more, which is really what a parent wants, right?

 

Ardith Brunt, Ph.D., R.D., Professor, Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences, NDSU

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