foods are high on fun but low on nutrition, says U of C
July 15, 2008
Chocolate bars, chips and pop aren't the only
nutritional dangers lurking in grocery store aisles.
Nine out of 10 grocery store food products marketed
directly to children provide poor nutrition because
they're too high in sugar, fat or sodium, according to a
new University of Calgary study.
Researchers examined 367 so-called fun foods -- products
targeting children with cartoons, puzzles or games, or
tie-ins with children's television shows, among other
They did not include junk foods such as pop, cakes or
chips in the study.
"Because there's so much focus on the issue of pop and
junk food, we're tending to overlook other critical
spaces where food is marketed to kids," said Charlene
Elliott, the lead researcher and an assistant professor
in the U of C's faculty of communication and culture.
The fruit snacks aisle is one such space.
"I don't think parents are unreasonable to presume fruit
snacks are a healthy choice," she said, "but many of
them are just stacked with sugar."
To assess the nutritional value of these foods, Elliott
and her team used criteria developed by the U.S.-based
Center for Science in the Public Interest.
The criteria states healthy foods should contain no more
than 35 per cent of added sugar by weight and no more
than 35 per cent of total calories from fat. Snacks
should have no more than 230 milligrams of salt, while
meals should have no more than 770 mg of salt.
Almost 70 per cent of the foods studied were high in
sugar, about 23 per cent were high in fat, and about 17
per cent were high in sodium.
Despite these nutritional pitfalls, researchers found 62
per cent of the foods in the study boasted health claims
on the product packaging.
Elliott pointed to Chocolate Lucky Charms, which contain
14 grams of sugar per serving and claimed to be a good
source of iron and whole grains.
"It's a very strange universe where you can have a
children's cereal that's actually marketed as breakfast
candy yet carries multiple nutritional claims on the
front of the box," she said.
The study was published in the July issue of Obesity
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