4 Big Reasons Food Advocate & Author of Kid Food, Bettina Siegel, Believes it’s Challenging to Feed Our Kids Healthier, Unprocessed Foods
By: Madeleine Wisecup
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4 Big Reasons Food Advocate, Bettina Siegel, Believes it’s Challenging to Feed Our Kids Healthier, Unprocessed Foods
According to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the calories that children and adolescents consumed from ultra processed foods, i.e. foods the study defines as ready-to-eat or ready-to-heat dishes which often contain more sugar and salt, and less fiber than unprocessed and minimally processed foods, jumped from 61% to 67% of total caloric intake from 1999 to 2018.
How Do You Define Kid Food?
If I were to ask you to define kid food, i.e. foods you think kids eat and/or like to eat, what items do you think would be on your list? Most likely, if you’re anything like me, your kid food list probably consists of items such as pizza, chicken tenders, mac and cheese, fruit snacks, hot dogs, and others of that sort, right? Basically, foods that are fun, highly processed, pre-packaged, and generally don’t contain much fiber.
Of course, don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with kid food, per se. Let me just clarify that I am not labeling these foods as “good” or “bad.” I myself am an avid fan of kid food...but in moderation. The challenge today, unfortunately, is that more and more children and adolescents are obtaining the majority of their calories from these types of highly processed foods rather than minimally or unprocessed foods.
In fact, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the calories that children and adolescents consumed from ultra processed foods — foods the study defines as ready-to-eat or ready-to-heat dishes, which often contain more sugar and salt, and less fiber than unprocessed and minimally processed foods — jumped from 61% to 67% of total caloric intake from 1999 to 2018. In other words this means that, two-thirds of calories consumed by children and adolescents today are coming from, according to this report, ultra-processed foods.
Why is feeding our children healthier foods so challenging?
As I started exploring this complex issue in more depth (because yes, this is a very complex, multi-layered issue with no simple solution) I came across a fascinating book by children’s food advocate and nationally recognized writer, Bettina Siegel, called Kid Food: The Challenges of Feeding Children in a Highly Processed World. I was hooked!
This book, for me, was a page turner — one that opened my eyes to just how broken and, I hate saying this, but manipulative, the food industry is when it comes to advertising to our children.
If you’re a parent or soon-to-be parent looking for tools, insight, and tips on how to feed your kids more healthfully in this highly processed world, or simply interested in food policy and nutrition, then you’re going to love this conversation with Bettina Siegel!
In this episode about kid food we chat about:
- the difference between highly processed vs minimally processed foods and why this matters
- the history of kid food
- the complexities of the food advertising industry
- how the food industries lobbied against the FTC’s 1970s KidVid policy to ban the advertising of sugary products to children
- how immersive kid food marketing is impacting our children’s nutritional choices and, ultimately, their health
- greenwashing and challenges this poses for parents
- how brands depend on the “pester power” of children to wear down their parents
- food insecurity
- why certain schools struggle more than others to provide minimally processed food options to their students,
- and so much more!
I am so eager to share all of Bettina’s work and research with you today. Happy listening!
Resources Discussed in This Episode:
- Kellogg’s Pinkfong Baby Shark Breakfast Cereal (Berry Fin-Tastic with Marshmallows)
- Veggies Early & Often
- The Lunch Tray Newsletter
- Book: Kid Food: The Challenges of Feeding Children in a Highly Processed World