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Kids' Junk Food Temptation

Health experts say commercials of sweets, sugary cereals and fried foods contribute to the problem of childhood obesity. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images hide caption

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Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

We talked about the connection between marketing and childhood obesity on the program today. But what really got me thinking about the role of advertising and obesity was my husband. He's a great cook and was one of the first people I ever knew who avidly read cookbooks. We have so many cookbooks in our house that we are out of shelf space for all of them.

He also loves to watch the Food Channel. He doesn't like the new, gimmicky shows, the ones I like to watch, like the cake contests where five bakers square off to create some un-godly confection that's amazing to look at, but seems utterly inedible. No, he doesn't like those shows. He likes the ones where a cook actually shows you how to cook something.

One evening recently, my husband was watching Emeril. Now for those of you who don't know chef Emeril Lagasse, suffice to say that he is not exactly known for cutting back on the caloric intake of his offerings. I wandered into the room a couple of times while my husband was watching the show. And both times, I happened to notice that they were running commercials for two different weight loss programs.

How ridiculous is that?

Well maybe not so ridiculous from the advertisers' perspective. Chances are, people who like to watch shows about cooking rich food might need a weight loss program after they eat the food they've just been learning how to make. (It feels kinda circular doesn't it?)

It made me think about the mixed messages we get about food. Commercials for Weight Watchers and Nutrisystem interspersed with shows aimed at making food look as delicious as being told that junk food is bad for them, while watching television shows "brought to you by" sugary cereals and fried chicken. If the adults have a hard time making sense of the messages, how can we possible expect the kids to "choose wisely?"

As our guests made clear, the marketing of junk food is only part of the problem of obesity. But it's a big one. Because it's all about money and profits and bottom lines. It's hard to imagine that even a well-financed and well-intentioned government campaign will be able to make a dent in the machinery of advertising that encourages us to put on —and later, take off— the pounds.