Food Advertisements in Two Popular U.S. Parenting Magazines: Results of a Five-Year Analysis

  •  Corey Basch    
  •  Rodney Hammond    
  •  Danna Ethan    
  •  Lalitha Samuel    


Obesity rates among American youth have prompted an examination of food advertisements geared towards children. Research indicates children’s high exposure to these advertisements and their influence on food preferences. Less is known about the presence of these advertisements in parenting magazines. This study’s objective was to examine prevalence of food advertisements in popular parenting magazines and identify products by USDA food category. We analyzed 116 issues of two popular U.S. parenting magazines across five years. All food and beverage advertisements for USDA Food Category were coded. Breakfast cereals were coded for nutritional quality. The coding took place at varied libraries in New Jersey, in the United States. A total of 19,879 food and beverage products were analyzed. One-third of advertisements (32.5%) were for baked goods, snacks, and sweets -- products generally low in nutrient density. Two-thirds of the breakfast cereals were low in nutritional quality (64.6%). Beverages comprised 11% of the advertisements, fruit juices the highest proportion. Less than 3% of advertisements were for fruits and vegetables combined. No significant food product trends were evident across the five-year period. Food advertisements identified in parenting magazines were generally low in nutritional value. Additional research is necessary to determine the influence of food advertisements on parents’ purchasing habits.

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