It’s getting kids to eat what parents serve that causes so many problems.

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DINA ROSE, PhD is a sociologist, parent educator and feeding expert empowering parents to raise kids who eat right.
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Raise Healthy Eaters One of the best blogs (other than my own) for learning to raise healthy eaters.

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Wednesday
Aug012012

Graham Cracker Goodness for Kids

If you feed your kids Graham Crackers because you think they're healthier than other kinds of crackers, I've got bad news.

There's not a whole lot of goodness going on.

More than other kinds of crackers, Graham Crackers have benefited from a halo effect. That's probaby because people think Graham Crackers are made from graham flour (a type of whole wheat flour).  


 

Most Graham Crackers, though, are only made with graham flour.  The first ingredient in Honey Maid Honey Grahams, for instance, is refined flour.

 

I’ve ranted about crackers before—Read Polly Want a Cracker?—so you know that most crackers aren’t up to their nutrition claims. That’s not what bothers me, though.

What bothers me about crackers is that they teach kids bad eating habits.

Getting kids in the habit of snacking on salty, crunchy crackers is tantamount to teaching them to snack on chips. Especially when the crackers are eaten as a chip substitute and not as a platform for real food like hummus or cheese. (Goldfish Crackers, I'm talking to you.)

Similarly, snacking on sweet crunchy crackers like Graham Crackers teaches kids to snack on cookies. 

I was glad to read that Nabisco is positioning its new product Grahamfuls as a cookie alternative.

Katie Butler, the senior brand manager for Honey Maid, told  The New York Times that Grahamfuls are "a healthier option than many cookies."

(Don't worry if this is the first time you've heard about Grahamfuls. They were introduced by Nabisco this week. Do go ahead and try them. They're delish.)

Of course, whether Grahamfuls are healthier than other kinds of cookies is open to interpretation.

Ironically, unlike Graham Crackers, Grahamfuls are made entirely from Graham Flour.  Still:

  • One Grahamful has 120 calories, 5g fat, 135mg sodium, 5g sugar.
  • 2 Oreo Cookies (a close equivalent amount by weight) has 106 calories, 5g fat, 93mg sodium, 9g of sugar.

Where the Grahamfuls "win" is in the fiber and protein departments. Each Grahamful=3g of protein, 2g of fiber. The Oreos? Next to nothing. 

I'm not sure that cookies need to be "healthified"—they are cookies after all—but even healthy cookies produce a cookie-eating habit.  Read When is Cookie Not a Cookie? and Cookies and the Cycle of Guilty Eating.

What disturbs me is that Honey Maid is promoting the idea that parents should think of Grahamfuls as fuel.

"Help fuel your next adventure," reads the copy on the box. "Refuel with the crunchy delicious taste of Honey Maid graham crackers..."

Grahamfuls are not just cookies. They're super-cookies. They're fuel. (I see a new marketing category: there's food, and then there's fuel.)

Of course, all food is fuel, but is that how you want your kids to think about (glorified) cookies? Especially in the long-run?  ("Wow, what a workout. Let's go have some cookies to refuel.")

So I say, give your kids Grahamfuls if you want to, but teach your kids to think of real food (bananas, broccoli, beans) as fuel, and to think of cookies as, well, as cookies.

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~

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