Originally published: June 2021

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Food marketing is advertising that promotes the sale of certain food or food products. It usually involves items that are high in salt, sugar, and fat—think breakfast cereal, fast food, and sugary drinks.

In today’s digital world, food marketing is all around. It includes the products teens see in movies and on TV, and the ads that pop up on websites, videos, and apps. It comes from social media posts, celebrity endorsements, product giveaways, and more.

Food marketing is incredibly powerful. It can influence the food and drinks teens ask for, buy,
choose, and consume. It can even affect their long-term eating patterns. Help your teen stand up to food marketing with these tips.

Get them fired up

Food marketing is big business. It can be eye-opening to learn about the ways teens are aggressively targeted by food and drink companies to build awareness, preference, and brand loyalty.

Talk to your kids about the food marketing tactics you spot, and how they’re designed to lure teens in. For example:

  • Bright and attractive packaging
  • Playful product names, taglines, and gimmicks
  • Product giveaways, contests, and special offers
  • Unrealistic or misleading claims
  • Targeted promotion on social media platforms and by social media influencers

When teens learn about food marketing practices, they tend to get fired up. Many of these tactics run counter to core values like honesty, autonomy, and social justice. Encourage your teen to challenge food marketing and make independent choices.

Help your teen find credible sources of information about food and nutrition, like Canada’s Food Guide and Healthy Eating Starts Here. Teach them how to use nutrition facts tables to make informed decisions.

Make changes at home

Small changes at home can go a long way to reduce your teen’s overall exposure to food marketing. Work together to try these ideas:

  • Installing an ad-blocking extension on your Internet browser
  • Limiting the personal information you share online (it may be used for targeted ads!)
  • Recording shows and fast-forwarding ads
  • Using ad-free streaming services or DVDs
  • Taking a quick walk or running the stairs during commercial breaks on live TV
  • Unplugging from technology and doing screen-free activities, like biking, board games, or nature walks 

Think big

Not all food marketing is digital. It’s part of our daily activities—like playing sports or joining social clubs—and is found in public spaces, like schools and recreation facilities.

Teens have powerful voices. By speaking out against food marketing in their local area, they can reject food marketing in a big way. Help your teen get involved in school or community efforts to:

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

If your teen is ready to take things further, they can check out stopmarketingtokids.ca, a national campaign to restrict food and drink marketing to young Canadians.

For more tips on raising a marketing savvy teen, go to:

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