Parents are the primary caretakers of their children and are responsible for providing them with optimal nutrition. This study investigates parents’ understanding of the nutritional value of advertised foods which informs their choices of food products as part of their duty to model, inform, encourage and advise their children on healthy eating habits. At the age of three children do not have a cognitive understanding of healthy nutrition; yet optimal nutrition is important, as it has a long-lasting positive effect on a person’s cognitive development and health.
The objective of this research is to find out how the media influence parents’ understanding through gaining knowledge of their nutritional practices, to determine their views of optimal nutrition for young children and whether parents were aware of their child’s nutritional needs and provide them with optimal nutrition. Albert Bandura’s social learning theory posits that people learn from one another through observation, imitation and modelling. Children learn by observing people and watching television, where they were exposed to advertisements that influence what food they want to eat, without considering the nutritional value of that food.
The methodological approach taken in this study was a mixed method. Both qualitative and quantitative data were gathered by means of semi-structured interviews and self-administered questionnaires. The results of this study indicated that parents were aware of what a nutritious meal for a child was, but due to time and financial constraints could not always provide their children with an optimal meal. Recommendations for future research were made with regard to parents’ understanding of their food choices. New insight from this study indicated that visual media influenced children more than parents. Children asked for products in stores and if finances allowed it, parents would purchase the product no matter the nutritional value of the product.