Wednesday, September 30, 2009

it's not a can of veg

Want some more advertising driven rage from me? I've got some. This time it's aimed at Chef Boyardee and their insistence that kids are too stupid to eat vegetables.

The first commercial that I noticed in this newish campaign involved a father absentmindedly reading aloud the label on the can of crap he was feeding his children. As he approached the part of the label that indicates the full serving of vegetables the mother began a cacophony of noises to make it impossible for the children to hear that dreaded word "vegetable."

In another ad the child is reading the label and reaches the word "vegetable" but has trouble reading it. I can't tell you how this or the previous ad ends as I either mute the tv or change the channel.

I'm willing, on occasion to feed my kids Chef Boyardee. I get that it's crap, but the kids enjoy it, and I'd like to think that we all eat well enough in general so that sometimes eating less healthful fare is quite okay.

Like most families, we have kids that are very different from each other. Big Brother is a much more exploratory eater, trying new things and gauging for himself whether he likes them. He's even willing to try foods he may not like to test his palate for changes or to try unliked foods in different preparations. The Boy is very picky and could exist on a diet of rice with butter and salt as well as cereal and peanut butter graham crackers and candy if we'd let him. He is willing to dislike food without really trying them.

The concept of vegetables is not something either of my boys has ever disliked as a general rule. There are few vegetables Big Brother doesn't like and few that The Boy does, but vegetables as a catch all for the food group isn't a particularly hated category.

Chef Boyardee, like other companies and like many people, parents and non parents alike, too often have this idea that kids just hate vegetables and that mention of the word will send them away from the table. I seriously doubt that any kid knowing there is supposedly a full serving of vegetables in the "pasta" would refuse to eat that can of gloop, though perhaps there are children who would refuse out of principal.

It really irks me that Chef Boyardee is willing to sell their product as a healthy alternative to real food, that they willingly suggest there is a serving of vegetables that is equal to an actual serving of vegetables. I get that some kids can be picky, as mentioned above. I get that kids can be difficult to feed. But to suggest that a can of tomato-ish sauce and overcooked "pasta" is a healthy alternative is just sad.

It reminds me of a Jay Leno bit I happened to catch a few years ago. He was discussing the Kraft Lunchables and had a spoof ad with a mother expressing joy over finding the new products, Breakfastables and Dinnerables and saying, "Now I never have to waste time cooking food for my kids again."

And yes, I did put scare quotes around "pasta." When discussing Chef Boyardee I feel that they should be required by law to use a different word to describe the noodle like things found in their cans.

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