On June 5 the Walt Disney Co. announced it will be banning junk food ads on its television channels, radio stations, and websites.
On Tuesday, June 5, the Walt Disney Co. announced it will be banning junk food ads on its television channels, radio stations, and websites. Needless to say, in a country where childhood obesity rates are at an all-time high, this is a huge step in the right direction.
What is Disney doing?
Scheduled to take effect in 2015, the new rules will ban all junk food ads from being shown on all Walt Disney Co. media channels. In addition to obvious junk food choices (such as deep-fried fast food), other products often touted as “healthy,” such as Oscar Meyer Lunchables and Capri Sun Juice (if you could call it that) will also be banned due to high sodium and sugar content, respectively. Further, ads for cereals containing more than 10 g of sugar per serving and meals containing more than 600 calories are not acceptable.
As well, as of six years ago all children’s meals purchased at Disney theme parks are automatically packed with raw carrots and low-fat milk, unless parents specifically request an alternative. Disney has also cut ties with McDonalds and no longer allows the use of their characters for Happy Meals.
Why is this important?
To put it simply, childhood obesity rates in America have tripled in the past 30 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Canada, too, has seen a radical rise in childhood obesity; a 2004 statistic reports that 26 percent of Canadian children ages 2 to 17 were overweight or obese. Yikes!
Unfortunately, the reasons behind this drastic shift are not so simple, and they are many. Among them is the constant bombardment of child-targeted advertising for junk foods. Fortunately, Canadian legislation already has quite strict systems for monitoring advertisement to children; however, there are still gaps. For example, the Federal Trade Commission in the US reported that “children get much of their advertising exposure from prime time and other nonchildren\’s programming.” While this observation is based on American statistics, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to assume the same is true here.
What can we do?
While Disney’s initiatives are a step in the right direction, they’re far from perfect. The best way to beat down the rise of obesity rates is to set good examples for our children, and limit their screen time. The following tips will set your family on the right path.
- Read this article with strategies to help teach our children to resist advertising pressures and encourage them instead to make healthy choices.
- Eat dinner at home, together as a family. Recent research suggests that eating at home rather than grabbing food on-the-go or at restaurants can prevent childhood obesity. Further, avoid eating in front of the television.
- Get your kids involved by having them participate in planning and preparing healthy meals they enjoy—for breakfasts, school lunches, after-school snacks, and dinners.
- Encourage your children to get the minimum 60 minutes of exercise per day. Having trouble motivating them? Get involved yourself. Take them on a bike ride, go for a walk, or kick the ball around in the backyard.
- Keep screen time to a maximum of two hours a day.