Manufacturers use Internet to target kids, author warns




VÈronique Leplat/canadian press


British nutritionist and author Jane Clarke and her four-year-old adopted daughter, Maya, bake muffins. Clarke wants to show parents how to create healthy meals for their children.

For years, the marketing of soft drinks, sweets, sugary cereals and snack foods on television has been the bane of parents concerned their children are being bombarded by unhealthy messages.

Now manufacturers are designing websites to catch the attention of children as young as six, says Jane Clarke, resident nutritionist for the Times of London.

“It’s cheaper than TV advertising and completely outside the control of any advertising standards,” Clarke says.

Clarke was the nutritional consultant for the groundbreaking TV series Jamie’s School Dinners, where Jamie Oliver, known to TV viewers as The Naked Chef, took on the British bureaucracy with a vengeance in an effort to put nutrition into that country’s school meals.

Clarke says commercial websites are enticing youngsters with games and prizes and encouraging them to send in their names and e-mail addresses in return for direct marketing information.

“The only answer is for parents to keep a watchful eye and monitor what their children are seeing on websites like this,” she says.

A check in Canada of two company websites that can be downloaded by Canadian children found similar games and gifts were being offered.

Clarke has taken a great interest in nutrition and children since she adopted a 15-month-old baby three years ago. She has now put her knowledge into a book. Yummy: Every Parent’s Nutrition Bible (distributed in Canada by McArthur and Co.) is a guide to help parents make healthy eating part of their children’s lives.

Clarke realizes modern life has become “incredibly stressful for parents.”

“But we have lost the ability to know what is good home cooking. To do pasta with a simple tomato sauce is really fine for children because they don’t need something complicated.

“And it’s just getting parents to understand that they can do cheap and nutritious and healthy food without too much fuss at all.”

Clarke says she is trying to get parents to focus on what they can do nutritionally to help their children — such as resisting pressure to buy products that aren’t at all good for them.

Pic ’n’ Mix Porridge

• Serves one hungry child

1. Choose from or mix together: organic rolled porridge oats, organic millet flakes, organic brown rice flakes. In saucepan, mix 1 cup of grain, 1 cup milk (soy milk is fine) and 1-1/2 cups of water. Pop on a gentle heat and stir for 5 minutes or until you have a thick, creamy porridge.

2. Dish up and stir in your chosen topping (see Toppings recipe box below for suggestions). If you prefer to keep it simple, you could always just add applesauce to sweeten and a splash of flaxseed oil to bump up the nutritional content. A dollop of yogurt will make the porridge richer and creamier.


• Serves one hungry child

• Each topping is delicious with any of the grains. Once stirred through, the warmth of the porridge will kick-start the flavours and add natural sweetness.

Ingredients: 1 small ripe banana 15 ml (1 tbsp) almond butter (or ground almonds) 15 ml (1 tbsp) flax oil 15 ml (1 tbsp) maple syrup Directions Using a fork, mash the banana in a bowl. Add other ingredients and keep mashing until you are left with a sweet paste to stir into the porridge.