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Food Choices Essay

1213 words - 5 pages

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Eating habits have changed drastically and rapidly over the years. Today, the number of overweight or obese children and adults in the population has increased while the numbers of lifestyle-related deaths have also increased. As Webb and Whitney (2008) argue, consumers today value convenience so highly that they are willing to spend over half of their food budget on meals that require little or no preparation. They regularly eat out, bring home ready-to-eat meals, or have food delivered. This trend is mainly influenced by the media which promotes such behaviors through commercials and popular programs and movies.

The media is a major source of information and ...view middle of the document...

Television, according to Samour and King (2011), is the primary media influence on children of all ages. It has been estimated that by the time the average child in the United States graduates from high school, he or she will have watched about 15,000 hours of television, compared with spending, 11,000 hours in the classroom. These hours in front of the television are made significant to eating habits by the number of food commercials aired within the time. As Samour and King argue, the average child watches more than 500 food references per week on television, and 20% of commercials during children's programming are related to food. Additionally, food products are advertised via cross-promotions with programs and characters and through fast-food restaurant promotions. The food items usually marketed to young audiences include sweetened cereals, fast food, snack foods, and candy, which are all foods high in sugar, fat and salt (Samour and King 2011).

The advertisement messages, as Samour and King (2011) argue, are not based on nutrition but on an emotional/psychological appeal - fun gives you energy, yummy taste. Younger children generally cannot discriminate between the regular program and advertisement messages, frequently giving more attention to the latter due to their rapid, attention-getting pace (Samour and King 2011). Advertising has also been linked to a shocking global statistic. As Pfund (2011) argues, one effect associated with food marketing, is a considerable increase in obesity in developed countries during the last two decades. Samour and King (2011) add that television viewing and other types of "screen time" have been suggested as factors in the rising obesity rates among children and teenagers in the United States. They argue that television watching and low levels of physical activity are associated with obesity and overweight, and television viewing has been inversely linked with intake of vegetables and fruits.

Foods remembered from media, particularly television, commercials are often requested by children. It's been concluded that food commercials promote food purchase requests by children to parents, have an impact on children's product and brand preferences, and affect consumption behavior. Additionally, unhealthy eating habits and sedentary behaviors shaped during childhood and adolescence may be carried into young adulthood ad continued into pregnancy (Institute of Medicine and National Research Council 2009). Further research has also shown that children are given approximately 50 percent of the foods they request their parents for.

However, the media can also influence food choices positively, particularly if the information being provided is accurate and is promoting healthy food choices. For instance, numerous breakfast cereal commercials promote the benefits of a healthy, well-balanced breakfast (Fettling 2005) Breakfast cereals are among the most frequently remembered food advertisement. If...

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