Despite my best efforts in trying to get my children to feel as passionate as I do about quinoa and kale (I swear, I have tried), they still occasionally fling themselves on the floor in the sweets aisle in Tesco, sobbing because they (claim) they haven’t had a treat in ages, and they need chocolate buttons right now.
And it’s not like I don’t feel them, because I do, I think all of us can agree that our sweet tooth game is strong too.
It’s just that, as adults, we are (for the most part) better at realising that our cravings for sugary things or junk food can come from things like tiredness or stress, and exercise at least some level of willpower. Hopefully.
Children, however, don’t have the same level of self-awareness or willpower when it comes to junk food.
And, maybe not so surprisingly, a new study has just shown that the longer they are exposed to unhealthy treats, the more likely they are to consume it.
The study, published in the Canadian Journal of Public Health, followed 659 students between the ages of nine and 13 in London, Ontario for two weeks with the help of a GPS tracker.
The tracker recorded any time the child got within 50 meters of any place they could potentially buy junk food, and then recorded how long they were in the area. T
he kids were also given journals to record any purchases they made.
Not terribly surprising, the results showed that the longer a child stayed in the store; the more likely they were to buy junk food.
Specifically, if they were only around for less than a minute, they had a 1.7 percent chance of buying something bad for them. The chances increased to 17 percent if they hung around for 15 minutes or more.
This is what Dr. Jason Gilliland, lead researcher of the study, had to say about the results:
“This study’s findings have significant implications for municipal planners, school board officials, public health officials and other decision makers.”
“This provides clear evidence that bylaws and policies should be enacted that restrict the concentration of junk food outlets around schools.”
Meaning, of course, that in order to make healthy choices, children need help avoiding the bad ones.
Gilliland and his team recently, on the back of the study, launched an app, SmartAPPetite, that shows kids healthy food options in their local area.
But it could also be done as simply as avoiding bringing kids to the corner shop. Steering clear of the sweets aisle. Keeping the fridge stocked with healthy foods and avoiding buying in sweets and snacks for the house.
“This [study] suggests the powerful influence that parents can have on their children’s eating habits and the need to be mindful of this,” the author explains.