When it comes to breakfast, my 10-year-old son Sam used to like Cheerios, but at some point he developed a taste for Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Cocoa Puffs (and frozen waffles straight from the freezer, but that’s for another eletter). Sure, I’d rather see him embrace Special K, or plain Cheerios, but the fact is he’s getting calcium in the milk that accompanies his cereal and some valuable nutrients-—who cares if it goes down better with chocolate? This was reinforced this past week at the annual dietetics meeting in Boston that I attended.
Over and over, it was driven home that the state of kids' nutrition in the U.S. is pretty dismal. As you probably have heard, we are raising the first generation of kids who may or may not not outlive their parents, due to obesity and diabetes. Despite Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution and all the food products sweetened with Splenda and Truvia and the like, our kids are not getting any healthier. In fact they’re more overfed and undernourished than ever. But back to sugar.
I know that flavored milk at school is a charged topic, and I can see both sides of the argument, but the fact is, kids get a lot of nutrients in milk—namely, vitamin D, calcium and potassium. A recent study showed that when flavored milk was discontinued in schools, milk consumption went down. And with it, vitamin D, calcium, potassium, phosphorous, protein and vitamin A intakes plummeted as well.
Kids' cereals may be overly sweet, but they’re also fortified and without that, kids would be deficient in vitamins A, C, Zinc, folate and B6. Also, sugary cereals only provide about 5% of the sugar in kids’ daily diets. Soda and other high-sugar drinks are responsible for the most. Not even 5% of kids get enough fiber, and almost 100% are below the recommended amounts of orange and dark green vegetables, and whole grains.
Bearing that in mind, here are some tips to help your kids eat a better breakfast, incorporating less sugar and more fiber:
If your kids like really sweet cereals, mix it with other nonsweet but more nutritious cereals for a breakfast or cereal "cocktail.” Try adding all bran, shredded wheat, bran chex and wheat flakes to sweetened puffed cereals.
Instead of soda—which has almost 12 teaspoons of sugar per serving—try mixing juice with club soda for a bubbly juice spritzer. They’ll get half the sugar, vitamin C and potassium.