I have always enjoyed my morning cereal. Although my cereal choices today often have healthy-sounding names such as Kashi or anything with the word bran in the title, I still enjoy a bowl of Fruity Pebbles. I also have fond memories of Frosted Flakes, Lucky Charms and Count Chocula greeting me each morning when I was a child. I considered the Trix Rabbit or the bird that goes cuckoo over Cocoa Puffs friends. I feel a true fondness for these characters and their cereals, and now their existence might be short lived.
Well, the cereals are probably not going anywhere for a while, but the government has proposed voluntary guidelines which will change how cereals are marketed in the United States. At present, 70 percent of food marketing expenditures are for cereals, restaurant foods and snack foods. The advertising targets kids and reaches them through TV, text messaging, video games and computers. Does this advertising work? Yes, it seems that children are a major influence in what food purchases are made in households.
So, the government thinks it is best to try and curtail the crappy food’s influence on our youth. It’s no secret that we have a childhood obesity problem in the U.S. because kids do not know how to play anymore. No one goes out after school and rides bikes or shoots hoops. Kids stay indoors and play video games or post nasty things about their classmates on Facebook.
So, how did parents and kids’ laziness become the cereal companies’ problems? Well, if kids are not exercising, they should not be shoving the sugary and fat-laden food into their mouths and that food includes the delicious cereals. With the new government guidelines, which go into effect over the next five years, the cereal companies will not only be encouraged to put more healthy stuff in cereals but they will be discouraged from trying to sell children on the benefits of the not-so-healthy stuff in their cereals.
Do I object to these guidelines? No. As sugary and sweet as cereals are, the companies that make them are not. The companies’ motives are a profitable bottom line. Their goal is not preventing Type 2 diabetes in little Joey Smith who lives in East Snow Shoe, Ohio. I know I hear people saying, “It’s a parent’s responsibility to monitor what their children eat.” I used to go along with the idea that parents know best for their own children until I saw a Sunday morning infomercial for a new program that teaches parents how to teach their two-month-old baby how to read.
When I saw the proud daddy on this commercial drilling his infant with flashcards so his kid could read by the time he was two, I knew there were parents out there who have lost all their sense. Is it really necessary for an infant to know how to read? Maybe, these parents should put down the “making your child a genius” program and instead, take their kids to the park where they could play on the swings. Oh, that’s right — the swings are too dangerous now. Kids could get hurt if they jump off or swing too high, and anyone who has ever seen an episode of Law & Order SVU knows that strangers and perverts just wait by the swings to abduct every child.
At least a parent could enroll a kid in organized sports for exercise, but only if the parents promise they will abide by the new rules where no one keeps score because keeping score might diminish the losing side’s self confidence. Also, there has to be limits on sliding or running too fast as these activities might cause someone to trip and fall and get a bloody nose or knee or something.
I have a tough time getting my mind around this protection-at-all-cost mentality. I played on playgrounds in the Bronx. We didn’t have the recycled tires underneath our swing sets to buffer our behinds if we fell. No, we had good old-fashioned concrete. We had monkey bars and that merry-go-round apparatus. I loved that thing. We would all sit down on the ride and just hold on. There were no seat belts, and we would take turns being the designated spinner, and the spinner’s job was get the merry-go-round moving really fast so that we would all become dizzy to the point where we were ready to pass out and then we would jump off onto the concrete. Okay, so some of us are not as smart as we should be due to head injuries, but we played outside and got exercise which meant we could still eat sugary cereal without worrying that we were going to get Type 2 Diabetes.
So, what’s my point? To be honest, I have no freaking idea. The merry-go-round memory just made my head hurt again, so I forgot what I was saying. Oh, yes, cereals and the guidelines. What is the big deal? Your kids will be healthier for it, and you won’t have to worry as much about what is in the cereals. With less time for worrying, you can go outside and play and everyone is happy – just avoid the concrete playgrounds.
photo by amoebafingers at flicr.com