Objectives: We sought to code food (nutritional content and food type and eating occasion) and character (cartoon and live action) attributes of food advertisements airing during television programs heavily viewed by children, and to represent and evaluate the nutritional content of advertised foods in terms of the nutrition facts label.
Methods: Food advertisements (n=426) aimed at general and child audiences were coded for food and character attributes. "Nutrition Facts" label data for advertised foods (n=275) were then analyzed.
Results: Convenience/fast foods and sweets comprised 83% of advertised foods. Snacktime eating was depicted more often than breakfast, lunch, and dinner combined. Apparent character body size was unrelated to eating behavior. A 2000-calorie diet of foods in the general-audience advertisements would exceed recommended daily values (RDVs) of total fat, saturated fat, and sodium. A similar diet of foods in the child-audience advertisements would exceed the sodium RDV and provide 171 g (nearly 1 cup) of added sugar.
Conclusions: Snack, convenience, and fast foods and sweets continue to dominate food advertisements viewed by children. Advertised foods exceed RDVs of fat, saturated fat, and sodium, yet fail to provide RDVs of fiber and certain vitamins and minerals.