The film industry didn’t get the memo about the importance of promoting healthy eating habits and food in media. Researchers from Stanford University recently armed themselves with popcorn and watched the top-grossing movies from 1994 to 2018—including Avatar, Iron Man, Black Panther and Titanic—to quantify the foods and beverages shown on-screen and see how well they aligned with U.S. nutrition recommendations for a healthy diet.
Their study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, showed that on-screen diets largely failed federal recommendations for saturated fat, fiber and sodium. Also in the script were many cocktails and lots of foods with high sugar content. Nutrient-poor snacks and sweets were the most commonly featured food in media, and about 40% of beverages were alcoholic. Water showed up only slightly more often than sweetened beverages.
While Hollywood could depict healthier food and beverage consumption, the reality is that movies show unhealthy foods as being stereotypical and cool to eat, reinforcing what is normative in real life. After all, if our favorite planet-saving superheroes aren’t eating salads, why should we?
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