kid looking at a screen

How Can Advertisements Influence Your Food Choices?

How can advertisements influence your food choices?

Food advertising is aimed to reach a wide range of people and age-levels through various sources and platforms. Advertisements can easily sway one’s food choices, especially adolescents and younger children. 

Food companies spend a lot of time and money to convince people to buy their product. In 2016, approximately $13.5 billion was spent in media advertising by more than 20,300 food, beverage, and restaurant companies according to the American Heart Association's Fact Sheet. Additionally, it is estimated that children see approximately 4,000 advertisements over the course of a year. This doesn’t factor any advertisements seen on social media platforms, video games, or cell phone apps!


What are common strategies used to market foods?

Common marketing techniques used in food advertisement can include:

  • Health or nutrient claims (Example: “Calcium helps to build strong bones.”)
  • Bright and eye-catching colors and photography
  • Memorable slogans, songs and jingles, or catchphrases
  • Free or exclusive prizes
  • Celebrities and cartoon characters as spokespeople
  • Sale or discount prices


How can you become an informed consumer and promote healthier eating?

Advertisements of food products and services are in many places, including television commercials, restaurants, grocery stores, magazines, newspapers, fliers mailed home, radio, billboards, social media platforms, video games, mobile devices, and online video and music streaming services.

There are many ways to promote healthier eating and tame advertisement temptations. To become an informed consumer and limit food advertisement exposure try the ideas below:

  1. Learn as a whole family: Spending time together as a whole family through cooking, grocery shopping, taking trips to the farmers market, meal planning, or reading the Nutrition Facts label are all excellent ways to learn more about food and become educated consumers.
  2. Play family games away from the screen: Setting time away from screens (TV and other electronic devices) as a whole family can further promote healthy behaviors and limit advertisements seen. Plan fun family activities, like reading books and playing an outdoor game of tag or an inside board game.
  3. Try watching television programs without advertisements: Television programs, especially children’s programs, are flooded with commercials about food products and services. Consider buying or renting DVDs (many libraries even have DVDs available to check out for free), recording shows in advance, watching public television stations, or using streaming services to help limit the number of advertisements seen during one sitting.  
  4. Take a family poll: Ask your family where they commonly see food advertisements and what products they specially see advertised to them. Their answers could surprise you, and even potentially provide talking points about how to make the healthier choice.


Healthy behaviors start with you! Next time you see a food advertisement, try analyzing it. See if you can spot marketing techniques, how it makes you feel, and if the food product or service being advertised is a healthful choice. 

For more ideas and family activities regarding food advertisements and their influence, try taking these “Healthy Family Challenges” from the Shaping Healthy Choices Program’s (SHCP) Family Newsletters – Healthy Choices at Home.

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