For the original “Supernanny,” Mary Poppins, a “spoonful of sugar” may help the medicine go down, but are your kids inhaling an entire bowlful of the stuff every morning before they march off to school?
Last week I read a story on parenting.com about The Worst Cereals for Kids from something called the Environmental Working Group, a group which I had never heard of before, but apparently their mission is to “use the power of public information to protect public health and the environment”. In other words, scare parents into buying healthier eating options for their children. Anyway, they studied the nutritional content of 84 popular cereals and ranked them according to sugar content.
Topping the list was Kellogg’s Honey Smacks, ironically, they used to be called “Sugar Smacks” when I was little…so much for the attempt to re-brand them as healthier.
One cup of Honey Smacks, Post Golden Crisp or General Mills Wheaties Fuel all pack more sugar, or sometimes its more notorious variant, high fructose corn syrup, than eating one Hostess Twinkie. One cup of Honey Nut Cheerios, Apple Jacks or Cap’n Crunch contains more sugar than eating 3 Chips Ahoy! Cookies. Well, at least I don’t feel so guilty about having scarfed down some cookies for breakfast the other day, since they are apparently as nutritious as some cereals…but seriously, is this surprising to ANYONE?
When I was growing up, I ate cereal every day – and I mean EVERY DAY. Cereal was a quick option for us in our morning rush and easy for mom to prepare – open cabinet, take out box and pour into bowl. No muss, no fuss — amazingly, this is now my exact routine for feeding our dog. The cereal options in my house were always the same – and still pretty much to this day: Cheerios, Raisin Bran and plain old Shredded Wheat-not very sexy. My mom wouldn’t allow any of those sugar-y cereals to be in her cupboards, no matter how much my sister and I pleaded that we just HAD TO HAVE the Saturday morning marketed cereal-du-jour. Smiling, talking animals may have enticed us to desire those artificially colored, artificially fruit flavored bowls of sugar, but our mom wasn’t buying it. Literally.
Okay, I totally got that she was doing her job as a mom – making sure we ate something “healthy” for breakfast. Plus, our parents were spending a fortune on orthodontists so there was no way their daughters’ shiny, straight teeth were going to be sacrificed for a morning sugar rush. So, I usually opted for the Cheerios – not my favorite, but the best out of the bunch to me. Even in milk, it just tasted like cardboard with no flavor at all. When my mom would turn her back or leave the room, I would scoot over to the counter and quickly dump in a few teaspoons of sugar to make it somewhat tolerable and tasty to eat.
Every year at vacation time, we got a reprieve. For one glorious week my mom would allow my sister and me to get whatever box of cereal we wanted. I was “koo-koo” for Cocoa Puffs – and never deviated from that selection. Hey, it was chocolate — or at least “cocoa” — and there was no other way to get away with eating that for breakfast (well, until I discovered Nutella). My sister was much more adventurous –she’d try old standbys like Cap’n Crunch or Fruit Loops, or experiment with trendy upstarts like Pac Man or Donkey Kong . For some reason, video games spawned popular cereal brands in the 80s. I might even swipe a handful of her cereal for an added sugar burst. For that week I was in cereal nirvana – finally eating what I really wanted. But soon enough, it was back home and back to a bowl of cardboard.
So, you might think I’d let my kidlets eat the cereal they want to eat, right? WRONG! Although they do occasionally get a little Dixie cup full of Fruit Loops or Lucky Charms at school. My kidlets have two options –Cascadian Farms Clifford Crunch Cereal or Paul Newman Vanilla Almond Cereal. Okay, so I guess technically they both use mascots to push the stuff-some things never change. The kids already love Clifford, but when we tried to explain that the handsome smiling gentleman on the other box was the voice of Doc Hudson in “Cars,” they were too busy chewing to care. A cup of either of these two cereals is under 110 calories and under 7 grams of sugar, and it IS sugar, not high fructose corn syrup, so they are healthier options than most of the mass-marketed stuff. My kidlets also enjoy yogurt and whole grain waffles with low-sugar strawberry jam for breakfast, so their cereal eating is every few days at best.
Fortunately, PBS Kids doesn’t feature cereal advertising, but even on Nick or Disney I don’t really recall seeing the endless stream of cereal commercials that ran on TV when I was growing up. I guess that’s a good thing…that only leaves me to say no to my kidlets about a million other things they see on TV for and want!
What was your favorite cereal growing up? What cereal do you allow your kids to eat?