Let’s Move was started in 2010 as an initiative to decrease childhood obesity.
Exercise does not make you healthy. A child who eats a McDonald’s Happy Meal would have to run five to six miles to burn off the calorie intake. Some children might be able to move that much, but others won’t. Let’s face it; you can’t outrun a bad diet. According to Time Magazine, one in three American children eat fast food every day.
The former First Lady did an outstanding job getting kids and parents to think about their health. In fact, according to the Let’s Move Campaign, her efforts helped provide 2.5 million students salad bars in their school cafeteria. However, I respectfully disagree with confusing the rampant obesity problem as a physical inactivity problem.
While our kids should play outside more and eat less fast food, there is another sneaky elephant in the room: the poor quality of our processed, refined, sugary foods. As someone who has studied advertising and marketing, I have to wonder if the ones behind it even consider the impact of the messages their work communicates or if they are solely driven by the almighty dollar.
Deceptive health jargon grabs busy parents’ attention as a cheap, easy alternative to trying to get kids to eat vegetables. From our youth, we are told to drink Gatorade to “replenish the electrolytes we lose in sweat.” What the advertisers don’t tell you is that their 30-minute soccer game isn’t enough to burn off that Gatorade. A banana, apple, or handful of almonds will replenish those electrolytes just the same, without 35 grams of sugar.
Sucrose, fructose, glucose, turbinado — it’s all sugar. What about the natural sugar or cane sugar? It’s still bad and it’s all oncogenic. There are 61 different names for sugar, and 74% of packaged foods have added sugar.
Next time you go to the grocery store, observe the packages and the loud shouts of “health” they tout. Pop-tarts claim they use real fruit, yet one of the first ingredients you will see is sugar. The food industry uses packages as tiny billboards, each one trying to sell their own snake oil. Kellog’s Mini Wheats advertise the excellent source of fiber, but they bury the lead: cornstarch and sugar. They are interested in selling more food. I hope they are also interested in health, but from the list of ingredients, it certainly doesn’t look like they are.
Is it a crime to add your child’s favorite cartoon character and a toy to sell this hyper-palatable processed food? It’s hard for me to say because I don’t have children. I would encourage everyone to check the infant formula aisle and read the ingredients. Spoiler alert: in almost all of them, the first ingredient is corn syrup or another form of sucrose.
I know, advertising is protected by the First Amendment. But so is flag burning.
I am against infringing on someone’s first amendment right, but I want the food industry to stop saying “50% less fat” when what they really mean is “50% more sugar.”
Mrs. Obama has to be politically sensitive, but we don’t. We can do more to make it easier for young people to make better choices. We can also speak with our wallets and shop the perimeter of the store for the vegetables that don’t need to advertise their health benefits.