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The American Academy of Pediatrics estimates that children are subject to a staggering seven hours of media each day in the form of television, computers, phones, and electronic devices. Personally, in our household, screen time is very much limited. But lets be honest, no matter how much you try to shield your kids from screens and everything that goes along with them, it’s virtually (pardon the pun) impossible.
The issue at hand here is not how much they're watching television or playing on their iPhone; it's the marketing that’s being shoved in their faces during most waking hours--in particular, food marketing to kids.
What Studies Show
The Center for Science in the Public Interest reviewed 28 hours of Nickelodeon programming last October (2012) and noted that of the food ads shown, 69% were for items of poor nutritional value (sugary cereals, candy/fruit snacks, flavored yogurt, fast food, etc.). And in total, according to The Food Marketing Workgroup, the junk-food industry spends almost $2 billion a year on marketing to young people.
The concerns are many when it comes to marketing to kids, especially when considering the ever increasing obesity rates. Jessica Castonguay, a Doctoral Candidate in Communications at the University of Arizona, recently participated in a study assessing whether childhood obesity is linked to clever marketing tactics. “Unfortunately our study found that health messages are frequently used to advertise foods that are not particularly healthy,” she says of their findings. “Implying that a cereal gives kids the energy to make them better athletes, despite the fact that it has more than 10 grams of sugar per serving, seems misleading. I want children to learn the difference between truly healthy choices and occasional treats. My fear is that advertisers are blurring those lines.”
We all know that marketing tactics and words can be confusing, even as educated adults. The words “natural,” “real,” “whole grain,” or “whole wheat” are just some of the terms that get used in various contexts. If we have a tough time wading our way through the terms, how in the world can we expect kids to have any luck?
Studies have shown that food advertising can contribute to numerous health problems, including being overweight, which, by the way, has increased to 35% of children aged 6-11. Even on a day-to-day basis, it’s just plain annoying to have kids ask for foods and products they see on TV that they’d otherwise not know about, ones that many of us try to steer them away from as best as we can. And since we’re talking about it, how cool would it be to see advertisements for vegetables or fruits coupled with a kid-known celebrity or cartoon character (hint-hint, Ad Council)?
Now before anyone starts jumping to conclusions about juicing or thinks “Geez, there is something wrong with everything” (I hate that feeling) - I want to make one thing clear: There is certainly nothing wrong with drinking vegetable juices. But there are a few reasons why I haven’t personally jumped on the juicing bandwagon myself - even after borrowing a friend's juicer and actually trying it out for a week - which is what I'd like to explain today.
Juice Is Not A Whole Food
First and foremost, my main dietary goal is to eat whole foods or what I call “real food” (i.e. 5 or less whole ingredients). Did you know that when you drink juiced vegetables and fruits you are not eating the whole food? The first time I saw a juicer in action I was actually a little surprised when I saw all this stuff being spit out the side. It turns out that stuff is the pulp (basically the fiber) and not included in the juice you are about to drink! Now you could technically bake that pulp into a homemade baked good or something (and still consume it), but I am going to tell you right now I would never be "Betty Homemakerish" enough to keep up with something like that. Plus I felt like the kale, celery, cucumber, and other ingredients I purchased to make the juice could have nicely supplemented several meals for the whole family, when instead the juicer transformed these ingredients into 2 glasses (about 10 ounces each) of not very filling juice.
One of the things I love about eating spaghetti squash is that my mental veggie consumption checklist for my family goes ... check, check, and check! Plus it tastes great too - especially in this Spaghetti Squash Carbonara recipe.
I've been on my soapbox recently about kids and snacks. And before I step off, I need to address one more issue: rewarding kids with junk food. It is our responsibility, as adults and caregivers/parents, to offer kids the right options.
This Sunday sauce is a hearty, delicious crowd pleaser. There is just no other way to describe it! I was first introduced to this style of spaghetti sauce by our old babysitter, Kim, long ago when we lived in Florida and I was working full time for corporate America. While the baby (who is now 8 going on 9!) was napping, and I was working, rather than sitting around Kim would start or sometimes even make our dinner for us.
Now that is a good babysitter. If you are paying someone by the hour, there is just no need for sitting around in my opinion! And with our work schedules back then, it was such a life saver at times. Granted, at that time in our lives, the meat wasn't local and the tomatoes weren't organic and the pasta definitely wasn't whole-grain, BUT it was still a somewhat wholesome meal I very much enjoyed and remember to this day.
And thanks to a similar dish made by my friend Trang and a "Super Sunday Sauce" recipe I found in Rachael Ray Magazine I was able to piece together how Kim made this for us plus - added bonus - turn it into a dish that can simmer all day long in the slow cooker!