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Kids’ breakfast food is more like dessert

Would you give your children cookies for breakfast? A new report from the Environmental Working Group reveals that many breakfast foods that are marketed toward kids contain more sugar than their favorite desserts. Read on to find out more and how to keep your kids on the right nutritional track.

Bowl of Fruit Loops

It is well known that a good, nutritious breakfast is an excellent way to start the day. However, the recent findings from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) shed some light on what nutrition (or lack thereof) resides in many of our children’s favorite cereals. Over half of the cereals surveyed by EWG failed to meet the government’s proposed limit for sugar content in cereal, which is currently at 26 percent by weight.

Worst offenders

The cereals at the top of the list for the most sugar content have been favorites of little ones for years — Froot Loops, Cap’n Crunch, Apple Jacks and Honey Smacks. The bad news is that many of these childhood faves contain more grams of sugar per serving than nutritionally void treats such as Twinkies and Chips Ahoy.

While we wouldn’t turn to a sugar-laden dessert as a breakfast staple, that’s what many parents are indeed doing. Sugary cereals are easy to serve and kids love them. The cereal industry spends millions of dollars advertising to appeal to our kids with vibrant colors, friendly characters and catchy jingles. A 2006 Yale study, however, has revealed that these types of cereals contain more sugar and sodium than cereals that are not directly marketed at children, and in turn, they are setting our kids up for making poor nutritional choices in the future.

Focus on more nutrition

It can be hard to steer our kids away from the latest and greatest breakfast cereals, but it’s a good idea to read labels and stay away from processed, packaged products that contain less wholesome food and more sugar, preservatives and sodium. This can be easier to do when you start earlier, as Sam from Missouri has discovered. “At two, it’s easy for me to make healthier choices for my son,” she explained. “I am worried, though, as he gets older how easy these choices will be for me to make for him.”

Don’t worry — not all cereals are bad for you. Some breakfast cereals are much better than others. For example, original Cheerios only contain one gram of sugar per serving and is often a favorite of toddlers trying their first finger food, and can remain a favorite, too.

Experts suggest improving your family’s eating habits by offering a variety of nutritious food at mealtimes, and continue doing so even if your child balks at his plate. Breakfast is the perfect place to add more sound nutritional choices to your child’s repertoire. For example, homemade oatmeal is a delicious option. Brighten the dish by adding fresh berries and milk. Try hard-boiled eggs, whole-grain toast and smoothies with fruit, milk and even spinach.

Think outside the box

You don’t have to serve breakfast-only foods in the morning, either. Katie, mother of one with a second on the way, shared her son’s unique breakfast favorite. “Eddie loves breakfast sausage, the only meat he likes really at all,” she said. “But I balance that with the fact that he loves to eat green beans for breakfast with it!”

More on childhood nutrition

Enhance children’s activity and nutrition
Nutrition for kids: How to get your kids to eat vegetables
Nutrition labels 101: Keeping kids healthy

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