Would you like apples with that? Kids confused by healthy choices in fast food ads

Childhood obesity remains a leading health problem for kids across the U.S. and has been at the top of the list of the top 10 health problems facing kids in the eyes of adults over the past several years. In response to increased attention to healthy foods for children, fast food companies began showing healthier food options in their advertisements targeted toward children – options like apple slices and milk instead of French fries and soda. But a study published online in JAMA Pediatrics shows that these ads are actually confusing many kids.

Children were shown images from fast food advertisements targeted toward kids and asked to describe what they saw. Only half of the kids correctly identified milk from a McDonald’s advertisement and 70% correctly identified milk from a Burger King ad. But while 80% of kids saw apples in a McDonald’s ad, only 10% mentioned apples when describing a Burger King ad that featured apples. Instead, most children misidentified apple slices in the Burger King ad and thought they were French fries.

The researchers concluded that even though fast food advertisements are showing healthier food options in their ads targeted to kids, these ads aren’t coming across clearly. 

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