Food Marketing Hall of Shame

1 Year & Older

It’s no secret that advertisers want to sell you their product. The companies in our Food Marketing Hall of Shame are preying on moms by playing on their guilt, stress and fatigue. We’re here to show you what they’re doing with their food ads and help you find healthy, manageable solutions to your struggles—without sugary, processed foods.

Encouraging you to offer your kids food bribes

We’ve all been there. Pleading with your child to please just try the broccoli. Ore-Ida’s “potato pay” commercial encourages you to “solve” this problem by offering a fry for every broccoli stalk eaten. This kind of food parenting isn’t a shortcut to better nutrition, and it can cause unhealthy attitudes toward food.

Shame on them for pretending that you need to bribe your kids with their product! Inviting your child to help choose and prepare the vegetables goes a long way when it comes to helping picky eaters try new foods, and it’s a lot healthier than a french fry bribe.

Mislabeling juice drinks as healthy

Food marketing experts know you love your kids and want to give them the nutrients they need. So they’re happy to tell you about all the “good stuff” their product contains, like Capri Sun with “all-natural ingredients” and “no added sugar.”

It’s a win-win, right? Your kids get the sweet drinks they beg you for and you don’t have to worry about chemicals and sugar? Not exactly. Even if there’s no added sugar in Capri Sun’s drinks, there’s still plenty of sugar in them: 15 grams per serving of their organic grape juice, to be exact. That juice pouch is loaded with as much sugar as soda! Shame on them for marketing to kids and enlisting them in a campaign to get you to buy a sugary product they’re passing off as “good stuff.”

Making unhealthy food seem more affordable

Part of what makes fast food so tempting is the price point. You’re spending a small fortune on shoes that they grow out of in a month, so when this McDonald’s fast food ad offers you $1 items, the temptation is real. Try to resist. That soda might only cost $1, but the dental bill for filling cavities throughout childhood will be a lot more. Shame on them for not offering a single healthy drink option on their dollar menu.

You can eat healthfully on a budget. Occasionally eating vegetarian, buying in bulk and skipping prepackaged foods are all ways to protect your wallet. Speaking of prepackaged foods, you don’t need them for snacking. We have suggestions for cheap, fast snacks and strategies to navigate the supermarket without blowing your budget—meal planning and sticking to your list can save you a bundle.

Encouraging you to settle for less-nutritious foods

If you’re anything like the moms we hear from every day, you’re under an enormous amount of pressure to be a “perfect parent,” and it’s a standard no one can live up to. You worry that your kids watched too much TV this week and didn’t spend enough time in active, open-ended play. We get it! Unfortunately, so do the food marketing people. Shame on them for using the pressure you feel to sell you junk.

Kraft wants you to believe that sometimes you can’t do better, "and that’s why there’s Kraft macaroni and cheese.”

You can do better—in the same amount of time that it takes to make boxed macaroni and cheese, you could boil water for pasta, microwave a bag of veggies, warm up a jar of tomato sauce and have a nutritious pasta meal. But that won’t help Kraft sell their product, so they don’t want you to believe that.

Need ideas for easy, healthy meals and snacks for your little guys? If it’s school lunches that have you stumped, check out our guide to healthy packed lunches they’ll love.

Capitalizing on your “mom guilt”

It can feel like your parenting is constantly being judged: by strangers, by friends, even by your own family. So when your kids decide to be picky and turn their noses up at everything you serve, you can feel your frustration and sense of overwhelm start rising.

Yoplait knows that moms are tired of being judged for every parenting decision and tired of feeling like they have to source their kids’ scrambled eggs from their organic, cage-free backyard chicken coop. So Yoplait is giving you the green light to throw your hands up and feed your kids anything that tastes good.

Newsflash: You can feed your kids foods they’ll like without a ton of the added sugar that Yoplait’s fruit-flavored yogurts contain. We’ve all got to feed our kids some quick snacks on the go sometimes, and “cage-free Norwegian hemp milk” isn’t a requirement! Shame on them for pretending that caring about nutrition is judgmental.

Placing the blame on your kids’ screen time

Remember that part about mom guilt? Nature Valley has your number too. Moms are worried about the amount of screen time their kids are getting, and how it’s changing childhood. Yes, screen time should be limited to encourage active play and social interaction, but Nature Valley isn’t selling an alternative to screen time with this food ad. They’re selling a high-sugar snack and trying to distract moms by pointing the finger at screens. Shame on them for hoping you’re fooled by the “Nature” in their name and their distracting ads.

That after-school window can be a tough time of day. Get help developing an after-school routine that allows your kids to get the fuel and movement they need.

Using nostalgia to sell you junk food

It’s normal to feel some nostalgia for your childhood, especially once you have your own children. If your childhood seemed simpler and less stressful to you, you’ll probably want to re-create that feeling. Products like Hardee’s Froot Loop donuts prey on this millennial sense of nostalgia to sell high-sugar, low-nutrition products.

Nostalgia is really about a sense of security. Shame on Hardee’s for capitalizing on happy childhood memories to get you to buy your kids junk. Satisfy your craving for comfort by creating your own family routines and traditions, like Meatless Mondays or Fun Fridays. You can bring the best parts of your childhood into your own kids’ lives while keeping them healthy and happy.