Current and former professional athletes frequently endorse particular brands and products, and they are often viewed as credible sources of knowledge on living a healthy life. Previous studies have found that parents are more likely to purchase food products marketed by a professional athlete because they are perceived as being healthier. In a study in the November 2013 Pediatrics, “Athlete Endorsements in Food Marketing,” (published online Oct. 7), information was collected from 100 professional athletes ranked by their popularity and endorsement value. Researchers tracked 512 brands associated with the athletes, with sporting goods or apparel ranking highest at 28.3 percent, food and beverages at 23.8 percent, and consumer goods coming in at 10.9 percent. LeBron James, Peyton Manning, and Serena Williams had more food and beverage endorsements than any other athlete, and they were the highest contributors in the marketing of energy-dense and nutrient-poor foods. In 2010, children aged 12 to 17 years of age saw the most athlete-endorsed food and beverage brand commercials, followed by adults. A majority of the food and beverage brand endorsements were for sports beverages, soft drinks and fast food. Ninety-three percent of the 46 beverages being endorsed by athletes received 100 percent of their calories from added sugars. Study authors conclude that promoting unhealthy food and drinks by well-known and physically fit celebrities sends a mixed message to children about diet and health. Professional athletes should be aware of the health value of the products they are endorsing, and should use their status and celebrity to promote healthy messages to youth.
Dear Mr. Dad: My wife and I try to set a good example for our kids by buying—and eating—only the healthiest foods along with quality vitamin and mineral supplements. But lately it’s getting nearly impossible to keep track of what’s good and what’s bad. Is there any sure way to know?
A: In a word, no. Unfortunately, things that used to be considered good are turning out to either do nothing or possibly cause harm. And things we thought were harmful are turning out to be either neutral or possibly even good for us. Here are the results of just a few very recent—and completely contrarian—research.
Topic: Managing food allergies and intolerances by eliminating common allergens and gluten.
Issues: Identifying the most common allergens; finding out for sure whether you have an allergy/intolerance; strategies for living with food allergies; preparing healthy, delicious allergen-free meals.
Topic: How your brain is hijacked by sugar, fat, and salt.
Issues: Why we overeat; why it’s so hard to stop; how we can break the cycle once and for all; additional pressured by teens; helping teens stay away from potentially lifelong bad habits.
Topic: The ultimate guide to potty training your child.
Issues: When to start potty training; how to do it; the importance of parents staying engaged in the process; the increasing number of post-potty-training issues such as bedwetting, daytime accidents, etc; when a toilet-related issue warrants a trip to the pediatrician.
Topic: Winning the nutritional challenges of parenthood armed with insight, humor, and a bottle of ketchup.
Issues: How to pick your battles and arm yourself accordingly; tv dinners, fast foods and other nutritional minefields; the 5-second rule; influences of family, friends, and others.
My wife and I love to cook, and we go out of our way to make meals we think our kids will like – or at least eat! But time after time we find ourselves dumping untouched food into leftover containers, or worse, into the trash. Our children seem to eat nothing but macaroni and cheese, and we’re worried that they’re not getting what they need in their diets. What can we do?
This may not make you feel any better, but I’m betting that every parent reading this column is nodding his or her head in agreement. Apparently all our children got the same memo.
Your job as a parent is to encourage healthy eating habits and to provide a good variety of healthy foods. Of course, as you know, providing it and getting the kids to actually eat it seem mutually exclusive. Not to worry. Research consistently shows that despite the frustrating appearance of the almost-untouched after-dinner plate, even the pickiest kids generally meet or exceed their recommended energy and dietary requirements. (After all, you don’t see too many kids keeling over from scurvy on the school playground, right?) The body automatically seeks out the nutrients it needs.
Dear Mr. Dad: My toddler used to eat pretty much everything. But recently she’s become incredibly. It’s gotten so bad that I can’t get her to eat anything but mac and cheese, noodles, and rice. Is there anything I can do to get her back to a healthier diet?
A: What you’re describing is a completely normal phase for kids. And every parent has had plenty of experience with toddlers’ dramatic pronouncements about what they will or won’t eat. Let’s face it, ice cream and cake taste better than broccoli and if you didn’t know that you needed a more balanced diet, you’d probably eat nothing but dessert.
The good news is that somehow or other, most kids end up getting enough of whatever it is they need to run around like maniacs all day long. But that doesn’t mean you should let her eat nothing but the white food group. Your daughter is old enough to understand that we all need a variety of foods—fruits, veggies, protein, and yes, an occasional cookie. At the very least, she needs to develop healthy eating habits now so she can carry them with her as she grows.
Here are some ways to help her get a more balanced diet:
- Give her plenty of choices, but no Yes or No possibilities. Offering beans or peas is better than asking whether or not she wants beans.
- If you’re feeling adventurous, next time you’re at the grocery store, have her pick a fruit or veggie no one in the family has had before.
- If there’s a food she despises, like broccoli, don’t push it. Instead, choose a nutritious replacement, like creamed spinach (but you’ll probably have to call it something else than spinach).
- Kids love to dunk, so include ranch dressing for carrots, melted cheese for green beans, yogurt or peanut butter for fruit. But make sure she isn’t just licking off the dip.
- Juice contains a lot of sugar so stick with mostly water or milk. When you do serve juice, (and we all do), make sure it’s 100 percent and dilute it by adding half water.
- Insist that she tries two bites of everything—even new foods. This could be a battle at first, but if she learns it’s a firm rule, she’ll eventually get used to the idea.
- Little kids tend to prefer crunchy things. Most of the time when they reject a food it’s because of the texture, not the taste.
- If possible, visit a farm so your daughter can see where produce comes from. That might make it more interesting, especially if she can pick her own.
- It’s easy to blend healthy ingredients into a smoothie—plus it’s something your daughter can help with. Throw in fruit (fresh or frozen), yogurt, ice and perhaps a little tufu or protein powder.
- Get her involved in other food prep tasks. Baking muffins is great fun. And it gives you a chance to demonstrate that something can be delicious even if it contains carrots or zucchini.
- Swap your regular pasta and noodles for whole wheat. The cheese and tomato sauces will cover up the difference in taste. You can slip all sorts of other nutritious things into tomato sauce and most kids will down plenty of fruit if it’s in their oatmeal or cereal.
- Your daughter is watching and will eat what you do, so set a good example. And take some comfort in the fact that kids get more adventurous with age.