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Food Addiction as Bad For You as Tobacco?


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#1 weinoo

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Posted 25 February 2013 - 07:33 AM

In an article entitled The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food, which appeared in the February 24th issue of the NY Times Magazine, author Michael Moss exposes some rather disturbing facts about the industry that has brought us everything from Cheetos, evidently:

 

one of the most marvelously constructed foods on the planet, in terms of pure pleasure.” He ticked off a dozen attributes of the Cheetos that make the brain say more. But the one he focused on most was the puff’s uncanny ability to melt in the mouth. “It’s called vanishing caloric density,” Witherly said. “If something melts down quickly, your brain thinks that there’s no calories in it . . . you can just keep eating it forever.”

 

To Lunchables, in all their ways, shapes and forms. Of course, it was all about marketing this stuff:

 

This idea — that kids are in control — would become a key concept in the evolving marketing campaigns for the trays. In what would prove to be their greatest achievement of all, the Lunchables team would delve into adolescent psychology to discover that it wasn’t the food in the trays that excited the kids; it was the feeling of power it brought to their lives. As Bob Eckert, then the C.E.O. of Kraft, put it in 1999: “Lunchables aren’t about lunch. It’s about kids being able to put together what they want to eat, anytime, anywhere.”

 

Now, the industry has known for a long time about the growing epidemic of obesity, heart disease and various other ailments associated with a high fat, high salt, high sugar, etc. diet.

 

And I'm wondering - are they just as culpable as the tobacco industry was in their targeting of kids when marketing their products?

 

Does anyone on this board use lunchables?


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#2 annabelle

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Posted 25 February 2013 - 10:16 AM

The tobacco industry isn't allowed to advertise and hasn't been allowed to on television or radio since the 60s.  Candy cigarettes and bubble gum cigars have been around since candy began being mass produced and may still be purchased in stores that focus on nostalgic candy items.  The campaign to demonize tobacco has been quite successful.

 

All that said, children do not have transportation and purchasing power to get themselves to the market to purchase foods that frankly, don't taste very good.  I used to buy my sons "Kids Cuisine" frozen meals about once a month just because they were fun and one meal a month that I didn't prepare wasn't going to kill them.  They ate them once or twice and decided they didn't care for them.

 

I have only bought Lunchables once as a lunch for my youngest son to take on a field trip since I didn't want him throwing away my tupperware containers at the park.  (The teachers had requested that they bring a brown bag lunch that had nothing to return home.  They were shepherding 60+ first graders, so I knew where they were coming from.)  Anyway, he opened it and ate the crackers then gave the rest of it to a friend.

 

No one is being forced to purchase crappy foods that are very expensive such as Lunchables.  Instead of culpability of the producer, I'd concentrate on gullibility on the consumer.



#3 weinoo

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Posted 25 February 2013 - 10:24 AM

Instead of culpability of the producer, I'd concentrate on gullibility on the consumer.

I'd say that that is BS.


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#4 annabelle

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Posted 25 February 2013 - 10:36 AM

Why? 



#5 weinoo

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Posted 25 February 2013 - 11:20 AM

Just like the tobacco companies knew about the ill-effects of long-term tobacco use and chose to hide it, the same thing took place amongst the fast-food giants who kept pushing things to kids.

 

Even as they met to try to figure out how to deal with what they knew was  a health issue of epidemic proportions, the drive for profit proved greater and nothing was done.

 

Sure, it's up to the individual consumer, and caveat emptor and blah blah blah, but when you're advertising on the the Saturday and Sunday morning cartoon shows, I think you know who your target audience really is.


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#6 annabelle

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Posted 25 February 2013 - 11:29 AM

Who is driving little Ethan and Meredith to the drive-thru window, Mitch?  Are they jumping on their Big Wheels and heading down the highway?

 

Parents need to take the bull by the horns when it comes to child-rearing.  If the kid demands a Bud Lite with his supper instead of milk, you don't get up and get him one.  If she screams that she wants a Happy Meal and throws a tantrum, let her wear herself out and she'll do the math soon enough. If you're in a public place when this behavior takes place, tuck the kid under your arm and head for the car.

 

Who's in charge here?



#7 gfweb

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Posted 25 February 2013 - 11:50 AM

Don't forget that the USDA has been more than complicit in promoting a carb rich, high calorie food pyramid. 



#8 weinoo

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Posted 25 February 2013 - 12:00 PM

Who is driving little Ethan and Meredith to the drive-thru window, Mitch?  Are they jumping on their Big Wheels and heading down the highway?

 

Parents need to take the bull by the horns when it comes to child-rearing.  If the kid demands a Bud Lite with his supper instead of milk, you don't get up and get him one.  If she screams that she wants a Happy Meal and throws a tantrum, let her wear herself out and she'll do the math soon enough. If you're in a public place when this behavior takes place, tuck the kid under your arm and head for the car.

 

Who's in charge here?

 

You know, I know very little about child rearing. And I'm sure all the parents reading this are glad to take your advice.  But lunchables is a $billion dollars-a-year product, so there must be something about the marketing to kids that helps them sell their stuff.

 

And I don't know about you, but I always demanded an Anchor Steam with my supper.


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#9 weinoo

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Posted 25 February 2013 - 12:01 PM

Don't forget that the USDA has been more than complicit in promoting a carb rich, high calorie food pyramid. 

 

Abso-fucking-lutely.


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#10 Baselerd

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Posted 25 February 2013 - 12:09 PM

I used to love Lunchables as a child back in the day. However, my parents would not feed it to me everyday - it was their responsibility to make sure I had a generally balanced diet.

 

Of course companies are motivated purely by profit. Of course they are marketing to their target audiences on Saturday morning cartoons. Would removing these ads solve the obesity "epidemic"? I don't think so - the root of the problem is laziness. Lazy parenting, and people who would rather pick up a Big Mac and watch TV instead of prepare a healthy meal.


Edited by Baselerd, 25 February 2013 - 12:25 PM.


#11 annabelle

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Posted 25 February 2013 - 12:13 PM

I know quite a bit about childrearing.  If you need tips, I'm your gal. :wink:

 

Lunchables are a part of a trend toward prepared foods for people who are over-scheduled.  Too much work, too many activities, too little attention to detail and putting the brakes on to reevaluate life's priorities.

 

Having your child come to you and say "No one orders pizza like you, Dad!" isn't exactly making memories.  Now, baking something simple as a boxed cake mix with a five year old is something they will remember and may help to get them interested in preparing their own meals.

 

Lunchables is in the business of making money.  Profit is not a dirty word, as even sellouts Ben and Jerrys determined when they famously sold their "We are the World" ice cream business to Unilever in 1999


Edited by annabelle, 25 February 2013 - 12:14 PM.


#12 Lora

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Posted 25 February 2013 - 12:27 PM

I was raised on a healthy diet and am now feeding same to my family. But my husband grew up in a processed-foods-centric household. If that had been me, and that was all I knew about cooking and eating, I don't know that my kid wouldn't be taking Lunchables to school too.

You say parents are lazy and spoil their kids to give them that stuff. But to play devil's advocate, food companies do their best to put a health shine on everything so parents believe the choice isn't that bad. Lunchables have meat and cheese and crackers, which is practically what you'd buy to make a sandwich, so they're fine, right?

You have to dig below the surface, and have an interest in nutrition and food politics, to know that it's "food", not food. And you have to be willing to retrain a palate (probably your own) shaped by a lifetime of "food". We are immersed in this information because we want to be, so we think everyone knows this. I don't think they do.

#13 Katie Meadow

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Posted 25 February 2013 - 12:29 PM

 With CEO's like the final voice from that conference with his "F-you" attitude toward consumers and his shameless and bottomless greed, getting America to eat healthier seems almost impossible. This article was the most depressing cynical thing I've read in a while. 
 
A shocking majority of Americans are addicted to high levels of salt and sugar and fat. Until fresh foods are as cheap as processed and every one has a decent market within walking distance and good health care is routinely provided to all who can't afford it; until warning labels appear on all fast foods and people have jobs with pay that affords them time enough to shop and cook (or learn to cook), then let's don't blame the victims. These addictions and so-called convenience foods didn't happen overnight. Kind of shocking, when you think about it, how much money has gone into research for so many years to determine the bliss level of foods that have nothing whatsoever redeemable about them. "Bliss level." Isn't that a killer? The manipulation involved is staggering. Who exactly doesn't want the 1% paying more taxes? Who exactly wants to further eliminate health benefits? So depressing.

Edited by Katie Meadow, 25 February 2013 - 12:32 PM.


#14 gfweb

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Posted 25 February 2013 - 01:04 PM

Can't blame evil food companies completely.  They are just exploiting out taste for junk.

 

Its a lot like TV which is filled with crap, but only because people like crappy TV and make a point to watch it.

 

Unfortunately, eating habits seem to be learned young and carried through life.



#15 annabelle

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Posted 25 February 2013 - 01:13 PM

Of course it's depressing, Katie.  It's in the NYT Magazine.  They don't have a finger on staff that doesn't love to point. 

 

No one is responsible for anything anymore.  There is always some nebulous "other" out there to blame for our own bad choices.

 

As far as "bottomless greed" goes, some restauranteurs may want to take a look in the mirror on that one.  $250 apps of miniature ears of corn?  Not in my lifetime.



#16 weinoo

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Posted 25 February 2013 - 02:17 PM

Of course it's depressing, Katie.  It's in the NYT Magazine.  They don't have a finger on staff that doesn't love to point. 

 

No one is responsible for anything anymore.  There is always some nebulous "other" out there to blame for our own bad choices.

 

As far as "bottomless greed" goes, some restauranteurs may want to take a look in the mirror on that one.  $250 apps of miniature ears of corn?  Not in my lifetime.

 

What's interesting is that you appear to be blaming everyone from the Times' Pulitzer Prize winning author of the article to the parents to the kids to the restaurateurs...everyone, that is, except the perpetrators.

 

They are hardly "nebulous others." They are named in the article.


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#17 Baselerd

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Posted 25 February 2013 - 02:27 PM

Regardless of the author's merits, I agree with annabelle. I'm sure what was meant by "nebulous others" was simply that people are so unwilling to admit their faults and instead shift the blame to other entities and begin finger pointing.

 

If someone feeds themselves or their kids crap food, they'll be unhealthy. If this is not obvious to people, then the issue is public education (or the laziness of society), not that these evil corporations are allowed to advertise on Saturday morning cartoons.


Edited by Baselerd, 25 February 2013 - 02:33 PM.


#18 weinoo

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Posted 25 February 2013 - 02:41 PM

If you feed you or your kids crap food, they'll be unhealthy. If this is not obvious to people, then the issue is public education (or the laziness of society), not that these evil corporations are allowed to advertise on Saturday morning cartoons.

 

The laziness argument is a real straw man. Don't you think that there are children whose parents both work? Perhaps multiple jobs?

Or single mothers or fathers who do everything they can to raise their child(ren) alone?


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#19 HungryC

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Posted 25 February 2013 - 02:57 PM

I don't blame laziness on the part of parents for Lunchables & their ilk....I blame inertia.  The parent choosing a steady diet of highly processed foods for his/her tyke is quite often completely ignorant about the impact of those choices.  We're well into the 3rd gen of Americans raised on factory foods...why would you expect a lightly educated (or non food obsessed) parent strapped for time to reject cold cuts and factory cheese?  Hell, it's probably slightly better, nutrition-wise, than the Pop Tarts, bacon, and red dye filled Kool Aid that mommy/daddy/grandma ate during childhood.  Parents need to limit children's access to food--even if it is organic, straight from the farm, sustainable, whatever:  you can't simply feed the kids limitless amounts of anything.

 

A constant barrage of contradictory health information is trumpeted by the media....most modestly educated, non-foodie parents are simply going to feed their children what they ate as kids.  The real problem is the modern American kid's sedentary lifestyle.  I grew up in the processed food 70s and 80s, ate my share of Kraft singles, Oscar Meyer bologna, soft drinks, and Little Debbies....but I played *outside*.  Yes, with actual movement.  Not organized sports...but play.  Blaming food manufacturers for large-scale cultural shifts in Americans' expectations of childhood is short sighted.



#20 Baselerd

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Posted 25 February 2013 - 03:10 PM

No doubt junk/convenience foods are definitely aimed at filling that gap which is the lack of time of the overworked members of society. Not to sound too heartless, but a household in which the parent(s) have no time to feed their children properly probably isn't the best environment for a child. Obviously there are plenty of great single parents, etc...

 

These types of situations are a part of a larger problem that includes how American society is overworked in general, and how our 21st century lifestyle and economy is affecting the home. Obviously if everyone had the money and time to have three healthy, home-made meals a day this problem wouldn't be so pronounced.



#21 annabelle

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Posted 25 February 2013 - 03:19 PM

Regardless of the author's merits, I agree with annabelle. I'm sure what was meant by "nebulous others" was simply that people are so unwilling to admit their faults and instead shift the blame to other entities and begin finger pointing.

 

If someone feeds themselves or their kids crap food, they'll be unhealthy. If this is not obvious to people, then the issue is public education (or the laziness of society), not that these evil corporations are allowed to advertise on Saturday morning cartoons.

Thanks, Baselerd.  That is indeed who I meant. 

 

I grow tired of the idea that everyone who eats crappy food doesn't know better.  I know loads of MDs who smoke and eat lots of fried foods and drink diet colas or gallons of coffee. We are bombarded with the whole healthy choices campaign and have been since I was in grade school in the 60s.  Junkfood is advertised around the clock.  Sporting events:  beer and snacks, sodas and snacks, chain restaurants.  The suggestion that showing up with a box of Taco Bell tacos is a surefire way into those scantily clad young ladies' lingerie.  Cartoons have their own networks and have had for ten years or more where they are shown 24 hours a day.  They also advertise waffles and toaster pastries along with fruit leather, chewable vitamins and snacks and toys, toys, toys.

 

If we could keep more of our earnings and afford* to have mom (or dad) stay home to raise our own children, things would certainly improve nutritionally, provided some effort is shown. 

 

*We can.  I did it on a modest income, but that is a different discussion.



#22 nasi goreng

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Posted 26 February 2013 - 01:54 AM

sorry for the ignorant question: but... what are lunchables?
I'm based in Zambia, southern africa, and I have never heard of them, neither do I remember anything like it from the Netherlands (the country were I grew up)

#23 weinoo

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Posted 26 February 2013 - 05:11 AM

Lunchables - are now more fun than ever!  Some of them even come with, gasp...water!!

 

Welcome to LUNCHABLES!

 

LUNCHABLES FOR KIDS!


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#24 Mjx

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Posted 26 February 2013 - 05:42 AM

I've heard of, but don't think I've ever seen them, and from the silly name I thought they were already for kids... no? And I could look at the company's web site, but it's more fun for me to think that rather than water, Lunchables previously included little bottles of Four Roses or Thunderbird.


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#25 gfweb

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Posted 26 February 2013 - 05:57 AM

The Lunchables that I remember aren't so bad nutritionally. Crackers, lunchmeat, cheese, some fruit maybe, a cookie?...sort of a deconstructed bag lunch. They are expensive for what you get, but not the horror that has been implied.  I can think of worse things to feed a kid.



#26 weinoo

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Posted 26 February 2013 - 10:54 AM

The Lunchables that I remember aren't so bad nutritionally. Crackers, lunchmeat, cheese, some fruit maybe, a cookie?...sort of a deconstructed bag lunch. They are expensive for what you get, but not the horror that has been implied.  I can think of worse things to feed a kid.


How much sodium, sugar and fat do you think are in the ones you remember?

We can always think of worse stuff to feed kids - Bud Light has already been mentioned!
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#27 gfweb

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Posted 26 February 2013 - 11:01 AM

The Lunchables that I remember aren't so bad nutritionally. Crackers, lunchmeat, cheese, some fruit maybe, a cookie?...sort of a deconstructed bag lunch. They are expensive for what you get, but not the horror that has been implied.  I can think of worse things to feed a kid.


How much sodium, sugar and fat do you think are in the ones you remember?

We can always think of worse stuff to feed kids - Bud Light has already been mentioned!

Have you been talking to your mayor?

What should a kid eat for lunch if not a sandwich and a cookie?  Does giving him PB&J constitute child abuse?



#28 The J

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Posted 26 February 2013 - 11:13 AM

How much sodium, sugar and fat do you think are in the ones you remember?

We can always think of worse stuff to feed kids - Bud Light has already been mentioned!

 

How much sodium, sugar and fat are in a typical ham and cheese sandwich?



#29 Porthos

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Posted 26 February 2013 - 11:27 AM

The Lunchables that I remember aren't so bad nutritionally. Crackers, lunchmeat, cheese, some fruit maybe, a cookie?...sort of a deconstructed bag lunch. They are expensive for what you get, but not the horror that has been implied.  I can think of worse things to feed a kid.

I just went to the Lunchables website, and randomly picked the "Light Bologna and American Cracker Stacker" box that has no drink. 320 Calories of which HALF are fat calories. 50% of calories from fat isn't good nutritionally.

I happen to be a devotee of the South Beach Diet so I am not fat-phobic - but I am very conscience of what the major source of those fats are. I also pay attention to the balance between fats, protein, and carbs.

Also addressing the busy parent syndrome excuse: When we were raising our daughters we both worked (still do) and still prepared real food that we cooked. They got a fast food meal about once a week. And we ate dinner together - it was a priority.

I just went and looked at one of the meals with water. The ones that come with water ALSO come with a Kool-aid packet to add to the water. That makes it sugar water in the end.

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#30 annabelle

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Posted 26 February 2013 - 12:20 PM

 

The Lunchables that I remember aren't so bad nutritionally. Crackers, lunchmeat, cheese, some fruit maybe, a cookie?...sort of a deconstructed bag lunch. They are expensive for what you get, but not the horror that has been implied.  I can think of worse things to feed a kid.


How much sodium, sugar and fat do you think are in the ones you remember?

We can always think of worse stuff to feed kids - Bud Light has already been mentioned!

Have you been talking to your mayor?

What should a kid eat for lunch if not a sandwich and a cookie?  Does giving him PB&J constitute child abuse?

If it doesn't already, it probably will by the end of the year.