I made up a batch of Crispy Brown Rice Treats with dried cranberries. They tasted really good, but they didn’t look like the ones Big P was offered at church. (You know, tan and cut into factory-perfect squares.) I almost put mine on a paper plate. Nope. I had to sell these to Big P like they were better than the junk. I ran to get my cake pedestal and crossed my fingers. They were a hit with my kids as well as the other kids who were in and out of our home. The cake pedestal spoke more to them than begging or arguing.
This was a teaching moment for me. It helped me understand a lot about food marketing. When you want someone to buy something, especially at a higher price, you make it look like it deserves that price tag. Packaging engineers create darling boxes and canisters. They use the trendiest fonts and color schemes. The commercials are cleverly written so each word strikes home with your values as a mother.
Now think about how you communicate with your kids about the foods you’d like them to love. Do you talk up healthy food? Do you rave about how crunchy those bell peppers are? You’re in steep competition for your child’s attention. Marketers are scrambling to find new ways to market to them including games for tablets and smart phones. I’ve bothered you before with this stat, so skip ahead if you’re already annoyed. In 2006, the food industry spent $1.6 billion on advertisements promoting foods high in calories and low in nutrition to our children. Not awesome. According to the Academies’ Institute of Medicine, food marketing affects our kid’s food choices, food purchase requests, diets, oh, and something else… their health.
These studies are a bit scary. But it also helps me understand how much influence I can have at home with the right tools. I can make it a habit to talk positively about healthy food. Let your kids “catch” you eating and enjoying veggies. Put cut up fruits and vegetables on cute trays. Even something as simple as a cake pedestal make sliced apples feel special. In my case, when they asked for seconds on Crispy Brown Rice Treats – they weren’t asking for more junk. They were asking for whole grain cereal, natural peanut butter, honey, dried cranberries, and cinnamon. Easy peasy. Interested in trying out this experiment at home? I’ll leave the recipe below just because I love my readers! (and your health, you sweet mamas.)
These don't take any more time than the original variety, but pack in a lot more flavor and nutrition. This snack is perfect to pack in lunches and a great way to introduce kids who are whole grain skeptics.
- 4 Cups Crispy Brown Rice Cereal
- 1 Cup Sweetened Dried Cranberries
- 3/4 Cup Flaxseed Meal (Optional)
- 1/2 Cup Natural Nut or Seed Butter (I've used both crunchy and creamy peanut butter)
- 1/2 Cup Honey
- 1 Teaspoon Cinnamon
- 1 Teaspoon Vanilla
- A dash of salt
- In a large bowl, combine crispy brown rice cereal with cranberries and flax meal if your using it. Next mix the nut butter, honey, cinnamon, vanilla, and salt in a sauce pan over medium heat. Stir continuously until it begins to bubble. Pour over the dry ingredients and stir gently with a spoon until everything is well coated. Dump into a 9"x13" pan and press with the back of your spoon. You can also roll out small bites and place inside cupcake liners. If they last this long, store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
Feel free to experiment with different spices like nutmeg or cocoa powder. You can also have fun with different dried fruits like cherries or blueberries. Have fun making your family's very own trademark treat.
Embarrassing note: Check ingredient labels to make sure that your cereal is in fact a whole grain. I was duped once and felt like an idiot.
Want to read a little more about positively marketing healthy food to your fam? Head over at this post, Brainwash Your Kids to Like Broccoli.
If you want to scream and then regain your composure, head over to this well-researched post, App, crackle, pop: Junk food marketers target your kids online by Tom Laskawy
Source for marketing statistics found at LiveWell Colorado.