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Are your kids gorging on unwanted calories?

17,September, 2016

Watching advertisements or online videos on mouth-watering food, does give rise to intense cravings for many of us, and, more often than not, it leads to over-indulgence. If this is what we adults go through, imagine what kids feel. A recent study found thatchildren are likelier to have extra calories post watching advertisements for ‘unhealthy’ food. There have been many similar studies done that have come to the conclusion that ads showing high calorie, low nutrient, energy-dense foods affect children as young as two and also teenagers. The study states that within 15 minutes of watching ads of unhealthy foods, children are more likely to consume another 30 calories which possibly contributed to their overall weight gain.

Heightened consumption of calorie dense fast food items

Senior bariatric surgeon, Dr Ramen Goel, says, "Impact of broadcast advertising of food products targeted at children is well established with brand recall by children for upto two weeks. This results in consumption of specific food items, purchase preference and insistence with family members." He says that this has been discussed extensively by WHO sponsored committees and they have come out with guidelines to limit food product advertising on TV.

Dr Goel adds, "The industry has assured self-regulation, however, most of the regulation applied by industry in western world is for children TV and not on family TV programs. Additionally, most of non-participant companies continue to advertise unregulated even on children TV. Unfortunately no such regulatory environment exists in India. Impressionable minds of children are bombarded with intelligently designed ads resulting in heightened consumption of calorie dense fast food items. Parental control is unlikely to influence children’s choices."

Lose track of food while eating

One of the serious problems of watching TV or movies while eating is that one does not realise how much one ends up eating. Senior pediatrician Dr Pawan Sureka reiterates saying, "Most of the time we are all so lost in the TV or movie we are watching that we keep on munching even though we are not hungry. This is further worsened by the tempting advertisements, especially so for children and leads to over consumption of foods with high calories."

Screen time eats up on exercise time

When your child spends time watching TV, the time for outdoor activities is decreased considerably. So, there is no time to burn the extra calories consumed. Experts say that this adds to childhood obesity, which, if not checked on time, goes on to become adulthood obesity.

Tips to deal with this

  • Parents need to realise that their kids are not doomed just because they are consuming media.
  • Discuss in detail with your child the benefits of various food groups.
  • Make them aware how unhealthy food could be detrimental.
  • Reduce your child’s TV watching time. Children like to imitate, so reduce your TV watching time too.
  • Discuss why some products are advertised while some nutritional foods are not.
  • Follow healthy food habits and they will copy you.
  • Give them healthy food options.
  • Make time for family sports.
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