I second the AAP's recent endorsement of a ban on televised ads for fatty and high-sugar foods that likely would be seen by children. Here's why:

Young children are strongly influenced by what they see on TV. If they are given two identical foods, one in a McDonald's wrapper and the other in a plain wrapper, they'll say that the McDonald's food tastes better. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17679662.)

If you look around the grocery store, you will often see children pleading with their parents to buy the latest sugar- or fat-laden food that they've heard about on TV. Advertising works, especially with small children. Eliminating this influence on this susceptible population during children's programming is an important first step toward changing their eating patterns and maybe reversing the alarming increase in childhood obesity.

A more comprehensive approach is required that includes increasing access to affordable healthy foods and safe places for kids to play while reducing portion sizes, consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and time spent in front of the screen.

It will take major shifts in our environment and food culture, but changing the foods that our young children think about and crave is a great first step.

 

Meredith Dreyer is a clinical psychologist specializing in children's weight issues and an assistant professor of pediatrics with the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine.