Originally published: June 2021

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Food marketing is advertising that promotes the sale of certain food or food products. In today’s digital world, it might feel like food marketing is all around your child. It involves the products they see in movies and on TV, and the ads that pop up on websites, videos, and apps. It comes from social media posts, product giveaways celebrity endorsements, and more.

Food marketing can be especially hard for kids to spot, yet incredibly powerful. It influences the food and drinks that they ask for, choose, and consume. It can even affect their long-term eating patterns.

Here are some ways to limit food marketing for your child, and to help them recognize it.

Unplug for fewer ads

One option to reduce exposure to food marketing is to go screen-free at home. Trade screen time for indoor activities like board games, reading, and crafts. Get active outdoors with family walks or bike rides, board games, and trips to the park. 

Another approach is to skip the ads when using screens. Try ad-free streaming services or DVDs, or record shows so you can fast-forward through the ads. For live TV, encourage your kids to get up and move around during commercial breaks. For time spent online, try an ad-blocking extension on your internet browser.

Face it (and talk about it!) 

Despite your best efforts, it’s unlikely your child will be able to avoid food marketing entirely. That’s why it’s important to teach your kids to spot marketing tactics, and help them think through the hidden intent or persuasion. Try having conversations about:

  • Food packaging, with bright colours, fun images, and characters that draw us in
  • Toys or other free items that prompt us to buy fast food
  • False or misleading claims
  • Messages in ads, like how we should feel, or what we should do

Help your kids find credible sources to turn to for information about food and nutrition. Canada’s Food Guide has great tips and visuals about eating well. Healthy Eating Starts Here has fun and simple recipes to get your family together in the kitchen—planning, preparing, and eating nutritious meals.

Stand up for change

Not all food marketing is digital. Look closely and you’ll find that food marketing is part of many community activities—like sports and clubs—and found in public places, including some schools and recreation facilities.

As a parent, you can use your voice to affect change in food marketing in your local area. For example, work with others to:

  • Eliminate food-related ads, like on billboards, score clocks, and arena boards
  • Replace food-related fundraising with sales of non-food items or physical activity challenges
  • Resist food-related sponsors for special events, tournaments, and community activities
  • Discourage the use of food-based rewards or giveaways
  • Avoid the use of food branding on team or club clothing

Ready to take it further? Check out stopmarketingtokids.ca to learn about national efforts to restrict food and beverage marketing to young people. The campaign is supported by many reputable health and social organizations in Alberta and across Canada.

For more tips on raising marketing savvy kids, go to:

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