The following article was written by Sarah King.
While I’m sure that there will be many more to come, one of the proudest moments I’ve had as a parent so far was when my in-laws pointed out that our toddler, Isaiah, had walked by a grocery bag full of Hostess products at least half a dozen times and not given it a second glance. He didn’t recognize the boxes and didn’t care what was inside them. Apparently, the other grandchildren would have gone a little bonkers and demanded to partake in the sugar- and chemical-fest had they seen such a treasure trove of Twinkies.
There’s a long history of vigorous debate over the ethics of marketing products to children, but there’s no doubt that kids do respond to the messages they see and hear. In one study, 30 percent of 3-year-olds and 91.3 percent of 6-year-olds could match the image of a cigarette with the maker’s mascot. Another study of children in kindergarten through second grade found that the children could correctly identify nearly 75 percent of fast-food logos and only 30 percent of health-food logos. It’s no wonder: When researchers reviewed commercials during television programming for preschoolers, they found that of 130 food-related ads, 76 were aimed at children. Fifty of those were for fast-food chains, and 18 were for sweetened cereals.
Of course, we don’t need studies to show that our kids are being inundated with enticements to eat crap. The skyrocketing rate of childhood obesity tells us just that (close to 17 percent of U.S. children are now classified as obese).
And now researchers who reviewed data by the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children have found an additional disturbing consequence for unhealthy eating habits: lower IQs. While kids who ate a diet high in fruits, vegetables, rice, and pasta at 3 years old showed higher IQs at age 8 1/2, kids who ate processed food high in sugar and fat at 3 years old actually showed lower IQs later on. “This suggests that any cognitive/behavioural effects relating to eating habits in early childhood may well persist into later childhood, despite any subsequent changes (including improvements) to dietary intake,” said the researchers.
So it looks like in addition to lowering the risk of developing diabetes and cancer, a healthy vegan diet may also make your kid smarter. Get your family on the right track today by ordering PETA’s free vegetarian/vegan starter kit and checking out our stockpile of kid-friendly vegan recipes and lunchbox ideas.