Scientists at Yale’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity conducted an interesting study with cereals:
Through an online survey, researchers asked parents with children between the ages of 2 and 11 to view images of actual box fronts of children’s cereals. While the cereals were of below-average nutritional quality, the boxes featured various nutrition-related health claims including ‘whole grain’, ‘fiber’, ‘calcium and vitamin D’, ‘organic’ and ‘supports your child’s immunity’. Participants were provided with possible meanings for these claims and indicated how the claims would affect their willingness to buy the product. source…
What do you think the parents said?
Parents said that the would buy the cereals with health claims because they seemed healthier. For example:
Three-quarters of parents believed that the ‘immunity’ claim on Cocoa Krispies® meant that eating this cereal will keep their child from getting sick.
The problem is that in many cases, the health claims are not very accurate, or don’t paint a full picture of a food’s overall nutritional quality.
“Promoting specific positive nutrients in products with other, less beneficial, ingredients (e.g. high-sugar cereals) appears to be a highly effective and low-risk marketing strategy for food companies,” says Jennifer Harris, lead author of the study and the Rudd Center’s Director of Marketing Initiatives.
The researchers conclude that increased regulation from the FDA is required in order to protect families. We doubt the FDA will step in as it has been sued in the past and lost to companies who took the First Amendment tactic.
What to do at the supermarket:
So how do you decide what’s truly healthy and what’s just marketing? The only way to know what’s in a product is to read the ingredient list and nutrition label. Select cereals with
- less than 6 grams of sugar (most kids cereals have 12)
- 3 or more grams of fiber
- no artificial colors (yes Trix, we’re looking at you)
- no partially hydrogenated oils (trans-fat, found in cereals such as Froot Loops)