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MM-3: What’s on TV?

MM-3: What’s on TV?


The average American child is exposed to about 10,000 food commercials (mostly high sugar and high fat items) a year. Advertisements can be misleading and encourage children to replace fruits and vegetables with unhealthy choices.


  • Paper/construction paper
  • Grocery store flyers, food ads from newspapers
  • Crayons/colored pens
  • Large paper/poster


  1. Have the children quickly brainstorm what foods they remember seeing on TV.
  2. Hand out paper/construction paper and crayons/colored pens. (For younger children, flyers and ads may be used, and pictures of foods can be cut out.)
  3. Give children time to draw two (or cut out) foods they remember seeing on TV either in commercials or during their favorite shows.
  4. While children are working, draw six large squares and label them with the names of the food groups (milk, meat and beans, vegetables, fruits, grains, “sometimes foods”).
    • Note: Try to do this after they have started drawing or have it hidden during the beginning of the activity so they feel free to draw the foods they actually remember and aren’t pressured to think of healthy food.
  5. Have each child tell the class what foods they chose to draw or cut out and what food group they belong to.
    • Note: Be sure to correct any mistakes. For example, french fries, ice cream, sugary cereals, chewy granola bars, breakfast bars/pastries, and fruit snacks all belong in the sometimes foods (fats and sweets) category rather than the vegetable, milk, grain, or fruit groups.
  6. Tape each picture inside the appropriate food group.
  7. In the likely event that most of the foods belong in the “sometimes food” category, ask children if they can remember any commercials that were for fruits, vegetables, milk, meat and beans, or grains (healthful foods).
  8. Ask children:
    • “Why is it so easy to remember the commercials for sweets and fats?”
    • “Do those commercials make you think those foods are good for you?”
    • “Fruit is sweet and tasty; would you pick these foods over fruit? Why?”
    • “Do you like these foods because they taste good or because of the commercials?”
    • “Do you know why commercials are like this?”
    • Point out food companies have exciting commercials and offer toys so children will spend money.
  9. Keep the food groups for use in the Make A Commercial activity.


  1. Advertisements try to shape the nutritional attitudes and eating patterns of children so that they will buy or request certain foods.
  2. Advertisements may claim to be packed with goodness or part of a complete breakfast to mislead children about the nutritional value of certain foods when they are actually very high in fat and/or sugar.
  3. Check ingredient lists on food packaging. If one of the first three ingredients is fat or sugar, it is an unhealthy choice.
    • Commercials may promote non-nutritional features of foods as the most important reasons to eat them (they’re cool or fun, come with a toy, or are associated with a cartoon or celebrity).
    • Children may have unrealistic expectations of the results of poor eating habits because television celebrities are rarely obese or appear to suffer from health conditions related to poor eating habits.


  1. Recognize what types of foods are being sold to them on TV.
  2. Identify misleading claims and incentives used to get their attention.


Eat Your Vegetables Drink Your Milk, Alvin Silverstein et al, Grolier Publishing, 2000.