When Did Cereal Become Dessert?

HealthGal Health Guide
  • Have you looked at the cereal commercials airing on television lately?  Sure, some ads highlight fiber content, some emphasize whole grains, and some…..seem to be selling a host of ingredients and flavors that would make these breakfast items qualify as desserts.  One brand is touting its new chocolate entries into the cereal world, while another cereal ad suggests that if someone else ate the many marshmallows in the box, before you get to have breakfast, you’ve lost out on its “magical deliciousness.”  How the heck are oatmeal or yogurt and fruit supposed to compete with this??


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    Just when did we allow cereal companies, who are supposed to be helping us (and our kids) to eat one of the most important meals of the day - the starter meal or rev your engines meal - turn breakfast into dessert?  If you think I’m exaggerating, then just go to your local supermarket cereal aisle, and start reading nutrition labels.  You will see whopping amounts of sugar in many of the cereals your kids demand (because they are watching the commercials).  Another reality is that the more unhealthy the cereal, the more colorful and enticing the front of the box pictures and messaging.  Many of the less healthy cereals also have cartoon characters associated with the advertising campaign.  Let’s not stop there.  A bigger issue - I have also begun to take exception to the notion that just cereal and milk is the best way for your kid (or you) to start your day.


    It can be, if you follow the box instructions to have a serving size of a less sweet cereal, measured out, with either nonfat milk or fortified soy or almond milk, as long as you add in a protein like a hard-boiled egg or some nuts, and an optional piece of fruit.  That’s considered a balanced meal with four food groups – grains, dairy, protein and fruit.  If the morning is chaotic, substitute Greek yogurt for the milk and create a parfait in a portable cup (teven he night before) so your kids can eat it on-he-go, and your child can eat it on their way to school.  Or mix cereal, nuts and a small amount of dried fruit in a portable cup or baggie and add a carton of milk for a meal on-the-go.   You can also use a whole grain waffle with nut butter and banana slices plus milk for a quick breakfast.  I just don’t think cereal and milk, especially the cereals we tend to choose, is best in terms of calories and balanced nutrition.  Studies clearly suggest we are:


    • Overfeeding on grains
    • Choosing mostly highly processed grains
    • Choosing gluten free grains and grain products as if they are somehow healthier for everyone
    • Eating highly processed grains without combining them with a small serving of healthy fat or a healthy protein to help mitigate the impact on blood sugar levels
    • Turning to processed sweet grains uniquely, to manage our fluctuating emotions

    A new study suggests that obese kids have a six-fold risk of developing hypertension, a disease that in the past was associated with aging.  Hypertension is also called the silent killer because people can remain asymptomatic for many years while high blood pressure damages arteries and begins the cycle of heart disease.  Quite worrisome is a study that suggests that parents of overweight kids think their kids are actually normal size. Overfeeding kids and offering them the wrong grain choices fuel child obesity. 


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    Kids need a balanced breakfast to face the physical and mental challenges of a regular school day.  Giving them a carb-heavy meal like cereal by itself, in large bowls, instigates a blood sugar (and energy level)high, followed by a likely plummet during morning classes, especially if they skip (or forget) their mid-morning snack.  Choosing a highly sweetened dessert-like cereal, because “they must eat something,” will backfire, in terms of their health and weight.  A simple guideline is to mix sweeter cereals with a high protein cereal and include a small additional servng of protein like nuts.  Or skip the cereal on certain mornings for a protein-based meal like an egg dish plus fruit.  Just like a superstar lunch, give them a breakfast that makes the grade!!


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Published On: September 05, 2014