The Truth About Your Kid’s Breakfast Cereal!

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All cereals are not created equal. They may look the same, with bright colors and cartoon characters, but check out the back of the box to see what you are really getting. Here’s some interesting facts about your kid's favorite breakfast food.

All cereals are not created equal. They may look the same, with bright colors and cartoon characters, but check out the back of the box to see what you are really getting. Here’s some interesting facts about your kid's favorite breakfast food.

The Facts

1) Breakfast cereals meant for children are of poorer nutritional quality than those marketed to adults. 2) Cereals for kids have more sugar, sodium, carbohydrates and calories per serving than non-kids cereals, and less protein and fiber. 3) Health claims are often misleading – cereals sold as “low fat” or “low sugar” does not mean lower in calories. 4) In the past 10 years, the amount of money spent on marketing food to children has increased from $7 billion to $15 billion. 5) 75% of American children say that they decide what they are eating for breakfast. Perhaps, we should rethink that one. Let’s continue to give our kids choices, just make sure they are healthy ones.

4 Simple Criteria for Choosing Healthier Cereals

1) Low in sugar – choose cereals that have less than 8 grams of sugar and no more than 12 grams per serving. 2) High in fiber – try to find cereals with at least 4 grams of fiber per serving. 3) Good ingredients with words you can pronounce. Look for whole grains or oats to be the first ingredient and watch for excessive additives. 4) No need to “show ‘em you’re a tiger” or hear the "pop, crackle and pop" – instead of being seduced by silly gimmicks, look for nutritious cereals. After all, breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

GOOD Cereals

Here is the criteria for my top 5 favorite GOOD cereals: NO trans fats and no saturated fats. They also have little sugar and lastly, the more fiber the better. 1) Cheerios/Honey Nut Cheerios. 2) Kashi Go Lean. 3) Total. 4) LIFE. 5) Raisin Bran.

EVIL Cereals

Unfortunately, this list is never-ending. Needless to say, these cereals all have trans fats, the most unhealthy ingredient any cereal could have. NOTE ON TRANS FATS: By law, the FDA only requires food companies to list trans fat content if the food contains 0.5 grams or more in one serving. That translates to – if it contains less than 0.5 grams, it is not necessary to tell anyone. Ridiculous, huh? However, there is a way to be a trans fat detective: look deep into the ingredient listing and look for the word “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated”. That means trans fats are hiding inside that cereal box. I told you cereals could be evil. Here are the worst ones: 1) Honey Smacks. 2) Corn Pops. 3) Basic 4. 4) Oreo O’s. 5) Froot Loops. 6) Cocoa Pebbles. 7) Fruity Pebbles. 8) Waffle Crisp. 9) Rice Krispies Treats Cereal. 10) Eggo Cereal Maple Syrup. 11) Smorz. And, now…the award for “most amount of sugar per serving” goes to Raisin Bran Crunch. No wonder I like it so much! Others that fall into the HIGH SUGAR (12+ grams) category are: Froot Loops, Apple Jacks, Corn Pops, Smart Start, Trix, Reese’s Puffs, Frosted Mini Wheats, Cocoa Puffs, and Banana Nut Crunch.

Things to Remember

Some other things to remember: Remember to eat cereal with 1% milk or non-fat milk – saves you a ton of extra fat and calories. Berries, citrus or banana slices are always good to add. And, remember, breakfast doesn’t have to be cold cereal – there are a ton of other breakfast options out there!

About the Author

Shelley Janson is a chef, writer, and business consultant. In 1985 Janson founded the Epicurean School of Culinary Arts, the first short term Professional Chef Training Program in Los Angeles. A frequent “foodie” contributor to local and nationally-syndicated television programs, Janson is also well-known for producing special food events for department stores, corporations, and fundraisers for nonprofits. Her client list includes MySpace, Oprah Winfrey’s HARPO Productions, and Martha Stewart Living. As a nutrition enthusiast, Janson is now launching her next career as THE FOOD COACH, empowering kids by teaching them about foods and nutrition to help them build healthy lifestyles. Look for her classes at Whole Foods and her other Food Coach articles at www.modernmom.com. Shelley can be reached at contact@thefoodcoaches.com or you can check out her website at www.thefoodcoaches.com.

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