SIDEBOARD: Breakfasts of which to Beware

Is eating from a cereal bowl the same as eating from the sugar bowl? Are kids in danger from advertising? Where should we set the breakfast bar?

(This is the SIDEBOARD to FOOD for THOUGHT: Build a Better Breakfast)


Where oh where do I begin?  There is something from the original article that bears repeating; so, let’s start there.  The amount of money spent on marketing cereals to children has been found to be inversely proportional to their nutritional content.


So, there was a proposal which suggested that, like with cigarettes, junk food –especially junk food masquerading as healthy food – should not be allowed to use marketing geared toward children.  Now making such a law should be unnecessary both because I as a parent should teach my kids that true junk food is OK, but only in moderation and because a claim that a junk food is healthy should be disallowable under some general truth in advertising law, also frankly, because people should bring their morals to work and not do this sort of thing as a general principle, but we have let the issue slide so far that as a society we believe that a lot of foods with no nutritional value are good dietary staples, and thus junk-food is trying to join the ranks.


The cereal industry – one of the earliest targets – sweet-talked their way into having a chance to clean up their act on their own.  They vowed to make their children’s cereals healthier.  How?  Decrease sugar and increase fiber & nutritional content.  To what levels?  Sugars would come down to 12g or below across the board & fiber would double or in some cases triple (the goal numbers were arbitrarily chosen by the companies under scrutiny).  “Nutritional” content, it was mentioned, would also be increased.  Sound good?


12g of sugar is almost a days worth of added sugar for a toddler – and the sugar, not coming from, say, dried apricot pieces but from colored marshmallows, was still all added (and devoid of nutrients).  As far as the dramatic fiber increases, ever hear that saying “double nothin' is still nothin'’?  Some of these cereals started out having a fraction of a gram of fiber.  Do a little more of the vitamin supplementation that’s already in practice and there’s no need to add any real food ingredients to meet the “nutritional” increase…


…the result…  The following list of cereals is representative of the “big” changes made.  Under the self policing guidelines, products went from having way, way too much sugar to just way too much sugar, and they still have little to no fiber.  Only now they sometimes have big messages on the front of the box touting how much healthier they are.  Do you notice any pattern or similarity in these numbers?


CEREAL SUGAR FIBER CEREAL SUGAR FIBER Frosted Flakes 11g 1g Apple Jacks * 12g 1g Golden Grahams * 11g 1g Cap’n Crunch * 12g 1g Lucky Charms * 11g 1g Cocoa Krispies * 12g 1g Reeses Puffs * 11g 1g Cocoa Pebbles * 11g 0g Trix * 11g 1g Fruity Pebbles * 11g 0g


* An asterisk indicates the use of more than one of: artificial flavors; artificial colors; corn syrup based sweeteners or multiple added sweeteners.


Cereal is already at the bottom of the list of foods that may be part of a healthy breakfast.  Let’s not ruin that by classifying any of these as such.


Let’s shake things up a bit, or rather, let’s not.  Skip the shakes – especially protein shakes & diet shakes.  Beside the fact that they are often sweetened, stay tuned between now and the end of the year for a whole page on each of the other three reasons that liquid breakfasts are not a good idea.  The quick summaries are: our bodies respond differently to the “same” “dose” of food in liquid form than in solid “chewable” form; concentrated protein, especially casein protein, can be dangerous; & ingesting isolated nutrients does not provide the same benefit as ingesting those nutrients in a food that contains them.  We are what we eat, and whole foods are more than the sum of their parts.


One exception to the liquid breakfast rule is juiced whole vegetables (very different from vegetable juice!).  If you want to explore that world for breakfasts & snacks, please go right ahead.


There are probably scary processed breakfast concoctions out there of which I am not even aware and therefore against which I cannot forewarn, but I must mention pop-tarts, toaster strudel, breakfast bars, cereal bars, and most protein bars.  In many cases I can find you cookies and even candy bars that would be better to eat.  These things come with a lot of sugar and little food value.  In the case of protein bars, the average person does not need nearly that much protein.  Try not to be tempted for a couple months. Once your taste buds recover from sustained levels of too much “sugar”, and from constant barrages of artificial flavors, these things won't even be appealing as an occasional treat any longer.  Obviously, muffins, pastries, doughnuts, bacon, etc. fall into the very occasional treat category.


Finally watch out for the “healthy” breakfasts on which we might not think to check ingredients.  Did you know that McDonald’s first version of oatmeal recently had more than two dozen ingredients!  In all fairness they are down to ten, but still include salt, sugar, cream, modified food starch and flavor.  Also, if anything is labeled healthy on the front, you should read the back.  Until next week, eat well.


QUOTE of the Moment:


Morning is when the wick is lit.    A flame ignited, the day delighted with heat and light, we start the fight for something more than before.

Jeb Dickerson


This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.


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