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What are we feeding our kids?

In our home, we often have a conversation about real food and junk food. It's a discussion every morning.


Anya: Mom, can I have some BBQ chips and some cookies for breakfast?

Me: No, lets start the morning with some real food. How about some pancakes?

Anya: OK, but only if you put chocolate chips in them with lots of maple syrup.

Me: How about we skip the syrup?

Anya: Can I get honey then? And did you buy me that juice box?

Me: Umm, how about some freshly squeezed carrot juice?



It is a daily battle. Most days I win. When it comes to cereal however, I lose.


It is only recently that I have started to seriously read the nutrition labels on my daughter's cereal box. I wonder why she craves it so much. Most days, she will choose it over a waffle or boiled eggs.


The answer lies on the nutrition label - it's the sugar.

It is addictive!


Cereals are tasty because sugar makes almost anything taste good. My brother loves Honey Bunches of Oats. My nephew digs Lucky Charms. My daughter switches between Froot Loops and Frosted Flakes. I've always had a love affair with Special K with strawberries.



Last year, I made the difficult decision to break up with my special cereal brand, and convinced my daughter to give up her's too. In today's post, I want to share what I have learned on my cereal journey to choose the best ones for my family.


I will start with introducing you to EWG, a non-profit, non-partisan group whose work I trust. Not too long ago, EWG conducted an analysis of 1500 cereals out of which 180 were cereals for kids. Their research showed that a child who eats a bowl a day for a year ends up consuming 10 pounds of sugar!


This was a startling statistic. Based on the study and the recommendations above, our family made the switch to the unsweetened variety of Cheerios. We do miss the sugar so sometimes we add a little bit of honey to our milk while eating our Cheerios, and that has kept our cravings at bay. In the beginning, it was a little difficult to convince our daughter but over time, she has adjusted, albeit slowly to the taste of unsweetened cereal.


Such a trooper. But honestly, if she had never tried and gotten used to a cereal so sugary, we would have never been in a position where she feels she's had to compromise. And, of course - this was our fault. We fell for the marketing! In the last 30-40 years, packaged food has been marketed so beautifully to our kids and to us - It has worked!


And have you seen the cool cartoon characters on the boxes - Remember Tony, the Tiger? I dread to take my daughter to the store because I am always afraid she would pick up the most colorful box with coolest character! I hate to admit it, but sometimes I crave my favorite sweet cereal too.


Today, we have a generation of kids with some nicotine-like addiction to sugary high-fructose processed food. All that is partly to blame for the high levels of childhood obesity too.


How I wish we would have the same kind of marketing for broccoli!


I live a practical life and I don't say NO to anything. I have no plans to say NO to cereal either. My suggestion to you would be to read the labels, and to read the serving size.


Here's what you should know so that you can make the right decision for your family. The serving size on most cereal boxes is so unrealistic that even sugar-conscious consumers end up having a lot more sugar than they want to. Some of the cereals have 'Meets Daily Fiber Requirement' on the box which prompts purchase - but this is misleading because it is not healthy given the sugar content. This is a good article to reference.


Over the last 10-12 years, the cereal industry has been focused on self-regulation. (yep, self-regulation, there are no real rules here). The problem is that there is no consistency between them when it comes to serving size, and this confuses consumers like you and me.


For example, is there a difference between a 'single serving' and 'suggested serving size'? Are we feeding our kids more cereal than what is recommended? I am an educated woman and yet the sugar content on that nutritional label confuses me.


What we need is stronger regulation. Can standardized metrics for sugar content be adopted? Can we reduce the sugar content to the recommended <6 g/serving target used by the WIC program instead of <9 g/serving that we see on so many boxes?


Until something is done about it, be a discerning consumer. Choose a cereal with less sugar or better still, no sugar at all.

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About Me

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Hey there! I am Komal Kapoor,

LA-based Indian-American who loves to share experiences in food, world travel, wellness and luxury!

 

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