It's back to school time, which means it's time to go back to school shopping. But parents, there's one thing I want you to consider before buying new clothes for your children.
A recent study out of the University of Michigan found that junk food imagery on clothing is becoming quite common, especially on clothing for young girls. A pediatrician's observation prompted this study. She found it hard to avoid donuts, cupcakes, and cookies. No, it wasn't the actual foods that she found hard to avoid. She was seeing these images on the clothing of her young patients and wondered what impact seeing these junk food images on clothing had on their impressionable young minds. She wondered if food images on apparel could influence food choices and eating patterns among young children.
Why are junk food graphics becoming so trendy? From cookies on t-shirts to donuts on pajama sets, these images are everywhere. They are turning young children into walking billboards for junk foods. This isn't what children need to be seeing.
The study was published recently in the journal Eating Behaviors. Researchers looked at 3,870 articles of clothing from four major children's retailers over a one-month period of time. They found that one in eleven articles of clothing depicted images of food graphics, and two-thirds of these images were considered unhealthy. They also found that girls' clothing consisted of more baked goods like donuts and cupcakes, while boys' clothing consisted of pizza and fries. This was worrisome for the researchers since previous studies have shown that children's food preferences and eating behaviors are associated with social influence, such as images of junk food on clothing.
Clothing is believed to be a powerful source that could potentially influence a child's identity and self-worth. Does your daughter really need a t-shirt that says "Donut worry, be happy"? Or does your son need a t-shirt with a graphic of a skateboarding pizza with a face? Definitely not.
The researchers of the study concluded that it's not completely known what messages children are internalizing when they or their peers wear food-graphic clothing, and if this has an effect on their food choices. They're planning further studies to determine this. One thing is clear, though. A child's association and relationship with food begins at an early age. Obesity is much more easily prevented than it is treated. So parents, think twice when purchasing clothing for your children. Young minds are impressionable, and the earlier we can get them to accept nutrient-dense whole foods over cupcakes, the better off they'll be in the long run.