GOOD

New Study Suggests Emoticons Could Be The Key To Fighting Childhood Obesity

Want kids to eat healthier? Add a smiley face to their menu.

image via (cc) flickr user

Getting kids to eat their vegetables is like, well, getting kids to eat their vegetables. At the end of the day, broccoli is always going to taste like broccoli (just ask former president George H.W. Bush) and not, unfortunately, like deep fried candy bars. But now there’s a new weapon in the fight to promote healthy eating and reduce childhood obesity: Emoticons.

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Me No Want Cookie!

The effort to re-brand fruits and vegetables for kids now has some cute, furry and iconic allies.

Over the coming months, you might suddenly find yourself and other shoppers whistling “Sunny Day, Sweepin’ the Clouds Away” as you walk through your local supermarket’s produce aisle. That’s because fruit and vegetables are slowly being rebranded as Sesame Street edibles, thanks to a sweeping campaign with the Produce Marketing Association called Eat Brighter, which allows fruit and vegetable companies to use Sesame Street characters free of charge. Get ready for Cookie Monster grapes, Big Bird zucchinis, and maybe even Bert and Ernie rutabagas, all rolled out across North America in an effort to put a dent into the colossal childhood obesity epidemic that continues unabated.

The Eat Brighter campaign—initiated by the Partnership for a Healthier America, a nonprofit organization created in conjunction with First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” to combat childhood obesity—hopes to turn the tables on the way kids eat by using the tools of junk food marketing and branding towards selling healthy foods. Essentially it’s trying to kickstart a healthy food trend amongst young foodies by using the same methods the Trix Rabbit or Tony the Tiger use to sell them corn syrup infused cereals, deploying Elmo and Oscar to get kids begging their parents for cantaloupes and kale.

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Banning Junk Food in School Vending Machines Seems to Work

The first nationwide study of school junk food policies confirms that limiting kids' access to unhealthy snacks keeps them slimmer.

With rates of childhood obesity climbing over the last decade, some parents and policy-makers have thought to consider whether the availability of endless soda and junk food in school vending machines might be contributing to the problem—and if banning those foods in schools might help solve it.

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Are Cap’n Crunch, Ronald McDonald, Toucan Sam, and the Keebler Elves Headed the Way of Joe Camel?

The message from Washington: Make products healthier or stop advertising to kids.

In the first four days of the year, food companies spend more on marketing their products than the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, by no means a small organization, spends fighting childhood obesity over 365 days. In 2008 alone, companies shelled out $2 billion on advertising, games, social media, toys, touting sugary cereals, French fries, and salty crackers specifically to children.

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Fighting Childhood Obesity Through "5-2-1-0 a Day"

Quantifying the fight against childhood obesity.

Jamie Oliver's "Food Revolution" and the First Lady's Let's Move are noble initiatives drawing attention to childhood obesity, but their results can be hard to quantify.

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Kids Watch Thousands of Hours of Fast Food Advertisements (Almost None of It's Healthy)

Fast food Ad watch: Out of 3,039 likely meal combinations, only about a dozen met nutrition standards the researchers set out for preschoolers.

The United States population is growing—and a lot of that’s happening around the waistline. More than 15 percent of children are overweight or obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Despite Michelle Obama’s high-profile effort to combat child obesity, San Francisco’s ban on the Happy Meal, marketing extravaganzas for baby carrots, and promises by fast-food companies to offer healthier fare, a big marketing effort targets kids—with the hopes that they'll nag mom and dad for French fries, footlongs, and frappes.

In 2009, fast food advertisers spent more than $4.2 billion on media to draw customers into their restaurants, according to a report released by the Yale University's Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity. Which means that, every day, the average preschooler saw about three fast food ads, the average child saw three and a half ads, and the average teen saw close to five ads. That's somewhere between 1,000 and 2,000 hours a year.

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