Children’s Health Magazine: Brought To You By Lucky Charms!

By Mike Howard

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There’s a lot of buzz surrounding the launch of “Children’s Health Magazine“, Rodale Press’ latest magazine endeavour (whose line-up includes Men’s Health, Women’s Health, and Prevention to name a few).

The magazine appears to have all the right ingredients for success (at least it’s inaugural issue does)–including none other than the First Lady on the cover and featured in an exclusive interview within, as well as Oprah’s go-to Doc Mehmet Oz, weighing in on the 5 most critical health tips for new parents.Flip through the advertisements however, and you may be struck with a sense of irony when you realize that 7 out of the 15 pages of ads feature General Mills cereals, whose cereals include Lucky Charms, Count Chocula, Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Honey Nut Cheerios, to name a few.

Reprehensible, reality, or both?

I find it very difficult to get past the glaring contradiction of the situation. Viscerally, it seems wrong that a magazine dedicated to the health of our children would be advertising the very products that are (at least in some part) responsible for the poor health they are trying to help curb.

It seems the publishers have either a) sold their souls, or b) been lulled into believing that these boxes of sugar, with some whole grains in them, are actually healthy like the company says they are (they even have a seal of endorsement that says so).

On the reality side of things, perhaps Bruce Hornsby said it best when he said, “That’s just the way it is,” (or was that Tupac?). Regardless, I don’t see much in the way of alternatives, as only companies with huge advertising budgets can foot the high 5 to 6 figure cost of full page advertisements.

One could argue however that if Rodale were truly dedicated to the advancement of children’s health, they would forgo ambitions of profiting from this particular endeavor, instead using the revenue from their other publications to carry Children’s Health.

Perhaps I’m overreacting here. After all, it’s not as though Marlboro or Bud Light are featured in the advertising. Moreover, they wouldn’t be the first children’s wellbeing-based magazine to contain seemingly counterintuitive advertising.

The parenting magazine’s I read are chock full of advertising for sugary convenience foods, juice and formula. Yet still I feel that it is fundamentally wrong to include this kind of marketing in a publication dedicated to children’s health.

To quote Kwame Brown, PhD, director of the International Youth Conditioning Association:

We must understand the difference between lack of surprise and lack of indignation. Our familiarity with a recurring event should never dampen our resolve to change it.

What do you think? Does this matter a little, a lot, or not at all?

Sources: Reuters and NY Times


  1. Kara

    This is how my parents handled the cereal situation, and, in my opinion, it is the best way. Aside from the health aspects, my mom never bought sugary cereals because they are so expensive. But if we were visiting someone who had the “good” cereal or Count Chocula happened to be on sale, we were allowed to eat it.

    It’s all about moderation. The occasional treat is ok. But, it definitely should NOT be viewed as a health food.

  2. Spectra

    I agree that moderation is definitely the key when it comes to sugary cereals. Although, I will say that not all parents cave to the pleas of their kids to buy Lucky Charms and Cookie Crisp. My dad would never buy us the cereals WE wanted; we got corn flakes, raisin bran, rice crispies, or Cheerios. Not the brand-name stuff, usually the Malt-o-Meal or store brand kind, of course. In the winter, we got oatmeal or farina or rice porridge with raisins. We OCCASIONALLY got sugary cereals, typically when we went to my aunt and uncle’s house or if the cereal was on sale. You can teach kids that they can eat “boring” cereal 80% of the time and (as my dad would call them) “marshmallows in a bowl” 20% of the time so you don’t feel deprived. I’m glad I didn’t get sugared cereal ALL the time, but I did appreciate the occasional bowl of Lucky Charms or Golden Grahams.

  3. Mike Howard

    Good catch Ann! Yikes… I’ll fix it.


  4. Ann

    By the way, in the article you wrote “Children’s Fitness Magazine,” but the title and the picture show “Children’s Health Magazine.”

  5. Ann

    I agree that one should try to stay away from sugary cereal – and I do myself – I think that the reality is that children see these cereals in the store and on tv and will want them, and in moderation that is fine. I think the bigger concern is whether this magazine could have honest reporting. I doubt they would run an article advising parents to feed their children yogurt and fruit instead of sugary cereal in the morning because they would risk losing their advertisers.

  6. ArrowSmith

    The best prevention is healthy eating and exercise. But that doesn’t benefit the Food corporations(Kraft & general mills) and the Rx companies. It’s like a conspiracy – the food corps poison us and then the Rx companies come to the rescue.

  7. ArrowSmith

    Hey! I grew up on Lucky Charms! Part of a balanced breakfast for growing kids! Don’t knock it until you’ve grown up with it!

  8. O.

    Yes, you are over reacting.

    Moderation not deprivation. In a day filled with fresh fruits, veggies, a multivitamin, whole grains, and portion control, one bowl of Lucky Charms is not the end of the world. Teach kids that now, you will have less yo yo dieters tomorrow.

  9. Christy

    If you have a problem with this magazine’s ads, then don’t read the Prevention magazine. It has more prescription drug ads than any other type of ad and because of the advertising rules the ads are really eye catching as they are at least two or more pages. I stopped buying Prevention magazine for that reason.

  10. angie

    There is a halfway point in eating sugary cereal all the time and totally banning it from the household. But to justify giving kids just sugary breakfast cereal for breakfast in place of more nutritious options under the diatribe of moderation is preposterous. Sugar cereals should be treated the same as cookies, cake, pies, candy etc. It is a once and a while treat eating in care to portion control and not in place of a meal. It is a dessert plain and simple. Give it as a treat, not a meal!

  11. angie


    The trouble with that logic is assuming that the child will be eating the sugary cereals in addition to healthy foods. I can tell you from my own experience growing up with any guidance in nutrition, that sugary cereal was eaten in place of wiser choices as a breakfast meal. Considering that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, setting the tone for the rest of the day, would’t sugary cereal be the worst choice to feed a child? Leave the sugar for a dessert, and keep it out of the breakfast meal!

  12. Jackie T Ewing

    I have battled the sugar cereal issue with my kids for years now (they are 14 and 9) and I continue to do so. It’s true they are lured in by TV and magazine ads, that’s how they learn about the stuff! It is a bit of a conflict to have these ads in a health magazine for kids, but do the broccoli-growers ever have enough marketing funds to battle the sugar giants? I don’t think so. Moms & Dads, it’s up to you to continue the battle!

  13. Kellie - My Health Software

    It’s no surprise that the company’s with the deep pockets to advertise in magazines, TV etc are promoting the unhealthy foods.

    We don’t have a childrens health type mag in Sydney and I’m impressed you do. It’s a positive step forward to educating and hopefully helping families make better food decisions. I dont buy magazines, but if I flick through one at the checkout, I usually ignore the ads anyway. 🙂

  14. b

    When I was a kid, I was not allowed to have sugary cereals. Maybe once or twice a year, for a special occasion, that was IT. Other than that it was plain corn flakes or rice crispies, period.

    As a result, as soon as I got to college I pretty much lived on Golden Grahams and Cocoa Krispies for weeks at a time. They’d become such forbidden fruit that it seemed like a dream come true to get to eat them whenever I wanted! I still buy them about half the time, make my own uber-healthy granola the other half, and I’m 30 now.

    Moderation is really the key. If I’d been allowed to have sugary cereals sometimes, but not every week, they wouldn’t have become such a huge deal in my mind. They’d just be one more thing you consider buying, weighing the pros and cons. They’re not the least healthy thing you could eat by far, but no, you shouldn’t have them 365 days a year. When you’re dieting, cutting out an entire type of food can spell disaster when you start to crave it – I think it works that way with kids, too. Unless it’s downright dangerous for them to eat it, making it too much of a taboo just makes them want it more.

  15. Dr. Kwame M. Brown

    The WHO (not the band) put out a report some years ago that underscored the PRESENCE of fruits and vegetables, along with an active lifestyle (not neccessarily super-intense exercise) not the ABSENCE of other foods as the primary factor in the prevention of chronic disease.

    The problem here, however, is that the foods in question here (if you can call them that, with very little nutritional value) basically hijack the brain and body. The consumption of these empty foods when very young can actually serrve in effect to exclude the desire for other types of foods from the palate.

    Think drugs. Drugs are certainly desirable and exciting, but their action on the brain can exclude other more constructive activities (especially the more addictive narcotics).

    Furthermore, high fructose corn syrup has been linked to early onset diabetes. I agree that lack of activity is a larger factor, but that doesn’t make it the only factor.

  16. Jody - Fit at 51

    It is a complex question. On one hand I am happy to see a mag that may offer some good advice for parents to help their children yet on the other, they see these ad that confuse them. It costs big bucks & the large companies have them, unfortunately, It would be nice if the mags would offer up some better prices for smaller & healthier companies to get their ads in there too.

    Barry had some good points above too. I also don’t think we should make everything off limits BUT it does start in the home & if we teach children young to like & eat whole good foods, that is a great place to start.

  17. Eric Conroy

    Mike has to learn like most educated adults that packaged foods from General Mills, Kellogg, Kraft or Quaker are a fact of most childrens diets. What a dull world where they not! Eaten in conjunction with the recommended quantity of fruits and vegetables and a healthy dose of exercise these products are a historic and healthy feed for youth.
    I’d be more worried if the mag had ads for video games!

  18. Barry

    I’m of the opinion that it isn’t eating those cereals that makes a person unhealthy. It’s rather eating those cereals to the exclusion of healthy food choices. I am not of the “don’t eat this or that” school of thought. Instead I think we should think about food in terms of what to be sure and eat. Enjoy junk cereal in moderation. Also make sure to enjoy whole food alternatives. More generally, instead of avoiding so called junk food of any type, focus on also including foods like fish, yogurt, blueberries, spinach, etc., etc., in your diet.

  19. Loot

    I dont know how magazines survive in 2009 in the first place, i havent bought one in years.

    Anyways, the processed food manufacturers naturally have larger ad budgets. So, this isnt surprising to me.. what would have been (surprising) is if there were ads for fruits and such. That wont happen. If youre looking for something without advertising, look at the Health Action Newsletter put out by CSPI (google it). Its lack of ad revenue really shows through, although, its a great source of info.