July 23, 2014

Have you ever noticed how most take-away food advertised on TV is a dull orange-brown colour? Sure, it’s deep-fried and this is where the colour comes from, but compare that to the vibrancy of fresh food and it’s a pale comparison.

A well-known fast food company is currently advertising their Family Fun-Do feast. The advertisement shows a bored family (mum, dad and three kids) doing nothing (“if you’re doing doing nothing, aren’t you really doing something”) and the solution to the boredom is to serve up this meal.

There are major problems with this concept. The first and most obvious problem is the suggestion that it’s appropriate to serve the family this type of food. This company’s website gives the nutritional breakdown of the meal; alongside their information is the nutrition information per serve for a family of five:

Energy                                12,632kJ ( 3,007 cal)   2,526kJ (601.5 cal) per serve

Protein                                158.9g                                31.8g per serve

Fat                                         134.8g                                26.9g per serve

Carbohydrates               288.8g                                 57.8g per serve

Sodium                               5,366.9mg                        1,073.3mg per serve

Interestingly, this type of food is usually labelled as being high-fat, but looking at the nutritional breakdown we see that it is actually a high-carb meal.

More concerning is that this meal provides kids with almost as much sodium as what is recommended for their entire day. From the World Health Organization’s Guideline: Sodium intake for adults and children:

  • Recommends a reduction in sodium intake to control blood pressure in children (strong recommendation). The recommended maximum level of intake of 2 g/day sodium in adults should be adjusted downward based on the energy requirements of children relative to those of adults.

With the average 10 year old requiring around 60 – 75% of the energy intake of adults, the maximum daily sodium level for kids should be between 1,200mg – 1,500mg daily.

Nutritional considerations aside, the second problem with this advertising is the suggestion that it’s appropriate to alleviate boredom with food rather than finding something to do.

Boredom is one of the major influences in over-eating, and it’s well known that over-eating leads to being over-weight. With the prevalence of over-weight and obesity steadily rising in both adults and children, the idea of treating boredom with food is both unimaginative and socially irresponsible.

Think about the catch-cry of parents far and wide, “When I was a kid, we were outside all day and just had to be home before dark.” While times may have changed, the basic idea is the same: keep kids busy and active and they’ll have no time – or inclination – to say “I’m bored”.

Now if a meal such as this was a one-off and occurred perhaps once a month at the most, it might be OK. Unfortunately, many families are time-poor or have low nutrition knowledge or give in to nagging kids, so meals such as this can become a lot more regular.

As one friend suggests, “They’re poisoning their kids.”

A simple meal of meat and vegetables is quick and easy to prepare, is healthy and filling, and teaches kids food and eating habits that will last their lifetime.