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The TV Ad Diet – Don't Try It!

Ever wonder what would happen if your diet consisted of all of the foods you see advertised on TV?

The short answer is: you’d be really unhealthy.

And for the long answer, you’re in luck –  a new report published this month in The Journal of the American Dietetic Association addresses this very question.

If you ate only foods you saw in TV commercials, you would consume 25 times the recommended amount of sugar and 20 times the amount of fat, but less than half the dairy, fiber and fruits and vegetables, according to The New York Times.

For the study, conducted by Armstrong Atlantic State University in Savannah, Georgia, researchers taped 28 days of prime-time television and Saturday-morning programming on the four major broadcast networks during one month in 2004. They compared the nutritional content of the 800 foods promoted in 3,000 ads with the government’s food pyramid and suggested recommended daily intake for various vitamins and nutrients.

They found that a person subsisting on a 2,000-calorie diet comprised entirely of foods from commercials would be eating too much saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium and not enough of 12 essential nutrients — such as calcium, potassium, fiber, vitamins D and E, iron and magnesium.

“Just one advertised food item by itself will provide, on average, three times your daily recommended servings of sugar and two and half times your daily recommended servings of fat,” said Michael Mink, the lead author of the study. “That means one food item could give you three days’ worth of sugar.”

What can parents do to limit the impact of these unhealthy food ads on their kids? For starters, they can limit TV time or stick to non-commercial television (we watch DVDs at our house).

Nutritional education is also key. The amount spent on nutrition education during the year that the study was conducted was $333 million per year compared to close to $ 11.6 billion spent on food advertisements.

As part of her “Let’s Move” campaign to fight childhood obesity, First Lady Michelle Obama announced last month that food and beverage manufacturers have agreed to cut 1.5 trillion calories from food and drink products by 2015. Mrs. Obama has urged the food industry to produce healthier foods and reduce marketing of unhealthy foods to children.

Now if we could just get food companies to advertise fruits and vegetables.

Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/cosmickitty/201475810/

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