Parents Can't Keep Kids from Eating Junk Food, Study Finds

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San Francisco made itself the object of national attention last year with city legislators' decision to ban McDonald's from serving Happy Meals. The ordinance, intended to promote healthful eating decisions among children by stripping the fast-food behemoth of one of its most effective marketing tools, led to derision from pundits across the country, including a humiliating turn on the Daily Show by the ban's author, Supervisor Eric Mar. (See above.)

Unfortunately, a new study published in the Journal of Pediatrics suggests that such intervention by well-meaning adults could be for naught.

The study evaluated the effect that commercials for French fries and apple slices -- yes, the apple commercial must have been pretty lame -- had on young children's food choices. Among those shown the commercial for fries, 71 percent chose a coupon for fries afterward. Additionally, some 46 percent of the kids who were shown a commercial for apple slices still chose the fries coupon.

Parents' scolding seemed to have some effect, but not as much as you might think. About 55 percent of kids who were shown the fries commercial and then urged not to eat junk food by their parents still chose fries.

Is the takeaway from this study that our children are doomed to lives of Super-sized ill health? Who knows, but maybe it's time for San Francisco's Board of Supervisors to start thinking about a ban on fast-food commercials.

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Caroline Grannan
Caroline Grannan

Echoing the other commenters -- this post makes no sense.

Meanwhile, Eric Mar was vindicated in a smackdown when McDonald's and other fast food Goliaths made over their kids' meals to make them significantly healthier. 

NotGavin
NotGavin

The headline here is very misleading, at least based on the summary in the article. There is a subtle but crucial difference between not being able to stop your child from *wanting* junk food and not being able to stop your child from actually eating it.  Last time I checked, 8-year-olds were not purchasing their own fries.

Todd Steel
Todd Steel

That is exactly what I was thinking.  In fact, the very title made me think - "What do you mean parents can't control what their kids eat?  You mean parents are too weak to enforce rule?"

ben__w
ben__w

It's a bit puzzling to me that you see two interventions that changed the percentage choosing an option from 71% to 46%, and from 71% to 55%, and conclude that they make no difference. Those are significant differences, but you just blithely say they're not and thus conclude the opposite of what the data says.

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