Friday, December 24, 2010

Children Can Make Smart Breakfast Choices

There are a lot of advertising dollars being spent trying to sway us, and our children, to buy high-sugar cereals. Saturday morning cartoons are loaded with them. Think about it, when was the last time you saw a TV commercial for Shredded Wheat, All Bran or an organic cereal? In fact, a 2009 survey conducted by the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University, showed that cereals marketed to our children have 85 percent more sugar, 65 percent less fiber, and 60 percent more sodium, not to mention the additional unnecessary calories that they add to the breakfast bowl. No doubt this is contributing to the epidemic of childhood obesity, but we do need to give our kids more credit about their food choices, at least according to new research by the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity that appears in the January 2011 issue of Pediatrics.

The current study included urban children aged 5-12, that contained a mix of English- and Spanish-speaking participants. The 91 participants broke up into two groups, one being offered high-sugar cereal (11-2 grams per serving) and the second offered low-sugar cereal (1-4 grams per serving). In addition, both groups were offered low-fat milk, organce juice, bananas, strawberries and additional sugar to sweeten their bowls. While both groups took in the same amount of calories, the type of calories they took in varied significantly. Those in the high-sugar cereal group predominantly ate the sugary cereal, while the low-sugar group was more apt to include fruit and juice in their breakfast choice. 

The conclusion is that children are happy given a selection, but don’t refuse low-sugar cereals, and actually benefit from the addition of fruit and juices to their diet. "Don't be scared that your child is going to refuse to eat breakfast. The kids will eat it," said study co-author Marlene B. Schwartz, deputy director of Yale University's Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity. Meaning that if all you have is low-sugar cereal, they will eat it, but offering them supplemental food, like bananas or berries, along with 100% juice can go a long way in keeping them satisfied.

Two important things to consider when purchasing breakfast cereal is grams of sugar per serving and the serving size. Keeping the sugar under 10 grams per serving is best, under 5 is even better. But the average serving size varies from  3/4 to 1 cup—both less than the size of an average cereal bowl—meaning that when filling up the bowl, your child is getting twice the amount of sugar than you intended. And many go back for seconds, compounding the issue. So look for larger serving portions with less sugar. The website published an excellent article listing the best, and some of the worst, breakfast cereals by category. It is helpful in choosing whole grain cereals, among others, and includes many family favorites and easy to find choices in your grocery store.  

Recommended: Cereals made with all or mostly Whole Grains (No trans fats, little or no added sugars; but check the list of ingredients -- recipes can change.)

Cheerios - General Mills
Chex, Wheat or Multi Grain - General Mills
Cinnamon Toast Crunch - General Mills
Cinnamon Grahams - General Mills
French Toast Crunch - General Mills
Golden Grahams - General Mills
Grape Nuts - Post
Grape Nut Flakes - Post
Great Grains, all varieties - Post
Healthy Choice Mueslix - Kelloggs
Healthy Choice Almond Crunch with Raisins - Kelloggs
Healthy Choice Low Fat Granola - Kelloggs
Healthy Choice Toasted Brown Sugar Squares - Kelloggs
Kashi (all varieties) - Kashi Company
Life - Quaker
Mini-Wheats, all varieties - Kelloggs
Muesli - Familia
Nutri-Grain, all varieties - Kelloggs
Oatmeal Crisp, all varieties - General Mills
Oatmeal Squares - Quaker
Organic Healthy Fiber Multigrain Flakes - Health Valley
Puffed Wheat - Quaker and others
Shredded Wheat, all varieties and sizes - Post and others
Smart Start - Kelloggs
South Beach Diet Toasted Wheats
Total - General Mills
Uncle Sam - U.S. Mills
Wheaties - General Mills
Barbara's, Cascadian Farm, Mother's, Nature's Promise and other smaller brands that specialize in "healthful" cereals (but always check the list of ingredients).

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