Cereal, it’s what’s for breakfast!
Pick low-sugar, whole grain cereals to start your day off right.
As many of us know, breakfast is an important part of a healthy diet. Read more about why you should eat breakfast here. Choosing a breakfast cereal for your family can be difficult for many reasons including the large variety of options, cost and taste preferences of each family member. Many times kids want the sugary cereal with the cool cartoon on the cover and parents want the healthy cereal full of fiber and nutrients. Is it necessary to leave the grocery with four different kinds of cereal to make everyone happy?
Picking a low-sugar cereal
First, let’s start with how much added sugar is recommended daily. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 3-4 teaspoons a day for children, five teaspoons for adult/teen women and 8-9 for adult/teen men. One teaspoon contains four grams of sugar. This recommendation equals anywhere from 12-36 grams of added sugar per day.
When deciding what cereal to buy, take a look at the nutrition facts label. A low sugar cereal contains no more than four grams of sugar per serving; equaling approximately one teaspoon per serving. Pay attention to the ingredients list. You want cereals that have whole grains listed as the first or second ingredient. This will help you and your family to make half of your grains whole grains.
They will eat it!
Research from the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity indicates that children will eat low sugar cereals. In the research study, children who chose low sugar cereals were allowed to add sugar. When children did add sugar to the cereal, the amount they added was still less than the amount of added sugars in high sugar cereals. Those who chose the low sugar cereals compared to those who chose the high sugar cereals, were more likely to have higher fruit consumption because they added it to their cereal.
Another finding of the study was that children who picked the high sugar cereal poured themselves twice the recommended amount and consumed it. Those children who picked the low sugar cereal poured the recommended amount and ate it.
Marketing and advertising
Many of the high sugar cereals are placed right at children’s eye level in the grocery store. Don’t think this placement is unintentional. Grocery stores place their products strategically to put it in the eyesight of the consumer they are advertising to. This doesn’t exclude children! Next time you are at the grocery store, pay attention to which cereals are placed where, and you will likely find a common theme.
Keep in mind how much children and youth are advertised to when it comes to breakfast cereal. This is likely one of the main reasons that your child wants to pick a certain brand of cereal. Total cereal advertising in 2011 was $264 million resulting in viewers seeing over 500 cereal ads per year. The majority of the brands that advertise to children have more than 27 percent sugar content.
Try limiting screen time for the entire family, not only to reduce the amount of ads you see but also to increase quality family time away from the television! It is recommended that children under the age 2 have no screen time and those over age 2 should be limited to 1-2 hours a day. To learn more about the negative effects of screen time, read Do you need to limit your child’s screen time?
Michigan State University Extension offers nutrition education classes for adults and youth that include information on healthy food choices consumers can make. More information can be found at http://msue.anr.msu.edu/topic/info/nutrition.