Helping Healthy Food Compete with Fast Food

Any parent who has ever seen the reaction of a 3-year-old to the idea of heading to McDonald’s for lunch won’t be surprised by the results of a recent study reported in the journal of Psychology and Marketing. Researchers discovered that children as young as 3 could not only recognize brands but also associated strong judgments with them.

According to the study, preschoolers (ages 3-5) perceived fast food as “fun, exciting and tasty,” and they recognized cola brands as fun and knew that “lots of people like them.” According to the researchers, “the present findings suggest that children aged 3 to 5 years have an emerging capacity to understand the symbols of brands for which they form part of the target segment. Preschoolers can and do judge others on the basis of brand use. This finding has clear public policy implications in relation to at least two issues: materialism and the formation of eating habits.”

While many may find this news disheartening, I see a beautiful opportunity instead. Since we know that our littlest children are so tuned in to the world around them that they develop brand recognition, we can use this information to  “brand” and reinforce nutritious food! This is the idea behind my latest book, Feeding Baby Green. The secret is to introduce children even before they’re born to the food that will keep them healthy and happy. That’s the branding that will truly make a difference in our children’s lives.

McAlister, A. R., and Cornwell, T. B. “Children’s Brand Symbolism Understanding: Links to Theory of Mind and Executive Functioning” Psychology and Marketing. 2010;27(3):203-228

Dr. Alan Greene

Dr. Greene is the founder of (cited by the AMA as “the pioneer physician Web site”), a practicing pediatrician, father of four, & author of Raising Baby Green & Feeding Baby Green. He appears frequently in the media including such venues as the The New York Times, the TODAY Show, Good Morning America, & the Dr. Oz Show.

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