Once you have explored the principles of Kids’ Breakfasts on that page, here are some more things to think about.
Cereals are mostly carbohydrates and kids need carbs for energy, so it’s hard to avoid them. Plus they’re easy in the early morning. Why not, then, choose cereals that are good food and supplement them with natural foods to make them even healthier? We will generously define “good” cereal food as cereal that is additive-free and which contains protein in addition t6o the carbohydrates.
It is important to try to avoid processed cereal food wherever possible, so avoid cereals with the following:
- Fake fruit. You may have noticed that freeze-dried fruit does not even have the texture of real fruit, so it’s fake fruit. Cut up fresh fruit instead. There is no dehydrated stuff that can provide nutrition comparable to a fresh peach or apple cut up.
- Sugar. The label should not list sugar, high fructose corn syrup, sugar syrup, or any other kind of sugar in the ingredients. You’re much better off putting natural fruit and yogurt, which have plenty of sugar to make it sweet, on a kid’s cereal.
- Fats. Granola has a lot of fat. Do your kids need to get fat? Sprinkle their favorite nuts and seeds on the top and be done with the fats.
- Long lists of ingredients, like artificial flavorings. Why feed your kids stabilizers, emulsifiers, or any other kind of chemical additives? The whole grain cereals by themselves are just fine.
This boils down to very simple cereal grains. O’s without flavoring or sugar are just fine. Kashi makes products without added sugar or chenical additives. There are simple, unadulterated products out there. You just have to look.
In fact, you just have to read the labels. It was a big victory for consumers when food labeling became the law. So let’s read the labels and do our kids the ultimate favor by choosing better quality foods. Kids trust us implicitly to make these decisions for them. Let’s earn that trust.
Michael Pollan has advised us that any cereal that changes the color of the milk should not be on the breakfast menu. We agree.
Here’s a comparison of the ingredients of a Kashi cereal with that of Total Raisin Bran.
Total Raisin Bran:
Ingredients: Whole Grain Wheat, Raisins, Sugar, Corn Bran, Corn Syrup, Brown Sugar Syrup, Salt, Trisodium Phosphate, Annatto Extract Color, BHT added to preserve freshness.
Analysis: 4 kinds of sugar when you include the raisins. Trisodium Phosphate—isn’t that the stuff you wash your walls with before painting them? BHT. Here’s what one source says about BHT: “The compound has been banned for use in food in Japan (1958), Romania, Sweden, and Australia. The US has barred it from being used in infant foods. Some food industries have voluntarily eliminated it from their products, including McDonald’s as of 1986.” and “There is evidence that certain persons may have difficulty metabolizing BHA and BHT, resulting in health and behavior changes.”¹ Annato Extract: Wikipedia says “Although it is a natural food colorant, it has been linked to cases of food-related allergies.”²
Do you want your children eating substances that are banned in multiple countries, including our own in baby food? Even McDonalds banned it 15 years ago!
Kashi 7 Whole Grain Nuggets (looks & tastes just like Grape Nuts):
Whole wheat flour, Kashi seven whole grains & sesame flour (Stone ground whole: oats, hard red wheat, rye, brown rice, triticale, buckwheat, barley, sesame seeds), malted barley, salt, yeast, mixed tocopherols (Natural Vitamin E) for freshness.
Analysis: Lots of whole grains, ground up but not processed to remove the grain’s nutritional value and fiber. Tocopherols are forms of Vitamin E, a fat-soluble vitamin. Triticale (× Triticosecale) is a grain that is a hybrid of wheat and rye.³
Which one would you rather feed to your children?
Recipe for Wholesome Kids’ Cereals
So what’s a good cereal breakfast for a kid?
Choose some nice, simple, sugar-free whole grain cereal. Dump a kid’s portion in a bowl. Top that with two tablespoons of non-fat vanilla yogurt. Sprinkle on some chopped nuts or seeds or both. (Flax seeds are great and set them up for healthy reproduction when they grow up.) Top that with chopped, fresh fruit (no pesticides please), such as bananas, apples, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, pears, or whatever fruit is in season.
Please check out the references to the source materials for yourself.
1. “BHT & Product Freshness,” Product Etcetera.com, http://productetcetera.com/broadcast/?p=64, September 12, 2011. “…the same chemical properties which make BHA and BHT excellent preservatives may also be implicated in health effects. The oxidative characteristics and/or metabolites of BHA and BHT may contribute to carcinogenicity or tumorigenicity…”
2. “Annatto.” Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Annatto, September 12, 2011.
3. “Triticale.” Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triticale, September 12, 2011. A genetic cross between wheat (Triticum) and rye (Secale). “As a rule, triticale combines the high yield potential and good grain quality of wheat with the disease and environmental tolerance (including soil conditions) of rye.”