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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Entries in Cereal (9)


Television and Junk Advertising

Should you let your children watch television channels that have "junk" advertising?

Many parents say, "no," but I say, "yes."

Yes, I know that children can't tell the difference between advertising and program content. And yes I know that children believe everything they see on television. And yes I know that food manufacturers are after our children. 

  • A recent content analysis of the top 40 food and beverage brand websites found that 63% of the websites contain gaming in which a product is featured. 
  • More than half used cartoon characters or had websites specifically designed for children.

The answer isn't to avoid these channels (unless you don't like the programming content). The answer is to educate your children. Even the young ones.

Tell your children that food manufacturers often lie to children. 

Then, tell your kids that if they hear anything about a particular food they should come check with you to see if it is true.

Say these things often. It filters what your children absorb and shapes what they believe. 

Be proactive: Children believe their parents.

Does this mean I'm letting food manufacturers off the hook?

Not at all. They're after our kids and that is unacceptable.  

Every day on average in the United States, children and teenagers see 12 to 14 food ads on television. And they're not advertising broccoli. (Although there is that one ad for Cuties mandarins, which I love.) 

Read this great New York Times piece How Advertising Targets Our Children. (Thanks Casey for sending me the link.)

Ads most likely to be marketed towards kids are fast foods, sugared cereals, sugary drinks and candy.

To me this makes the problem easier for parents to confront. After all, there's no ambiguity here: these foods are trash and everyone knows it. It's time your kids do too. Read A Spoonful of Sugar?

It's harder to teach children that chicken nuggets are trash, but they are. Read Are Chicken Nuggets Really Chicken? and The 10 Most "Dangerous" Foods.

Having said this, I recognize that emphasizing the need for kids to be educated consumers plays into the hands of food manufacturer.

"We don't have to stop advertising; you have to know what you're buying." So let's work on a shared approach. Work to stop this kind of advertising.

But I hate the way this is discussed, as if parents are (and should be) passive. Educating kids is a caring and reasonable response to a terrible problem.

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~

Source: Henry, H. K. M. and D. L. G. Borzekowski. 2011. “The Nag Factor: a Mixed-Methodology Study in the Us of Young Children's Requests for Advertised Products.” Journal of Children and Media 5(3): 298-317.


A Spoonful of Sugar Part 2

The Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at Yale University just released their 2012 report on cereal.

You may remember I wrote about their 2009 findings in A Spoonful of Sugar?  But even if you don't remember, you probably won't be surprised by the new findings.  Compared to cereals advertised to adults, the cereals aimed at kids contain:

  • 56% more sugar
  • 52% less fiber
  • 50% more sodium

Believe it or not, that's an improvement.  Back in 2009 cereals geared to children had 85% more sugar, 65% less fiber and 60% more sodium than cereals targeted to adults. 

There's a lot to be learned from (read: appalled by) reading the report.

For instance, media spending to promote child-targeted cereals totaled $264 million in 2011, an increase of 34% versus 2008.

But that's not what bothers me the most.

What gets me is how cereal manufacturers trade on the healthy image of one cereal to sell you another cereal that's way more inferior.

Let's take Cheerios for instance.

The Rudd Center assigned every cereal a score from 0 (very poor) to 100 (excellent) which takes into account the cereal's entire nutrition profile (and conveniently called the score the Nutrition Profile Index or NPI).  

Regular Cheerios get an NPI of 70.   In contrast:

  • Apple Cinnamon=50
  • Banana Nut=46
  • Chocolate=46
  • Cinnamon Burst=52
  • Frosted=46
  • Fruity=48
  • Honey Nut=46
  • Multigrain=56
  • Multigrain Peanut Butter=48
  • Oat Cluster Crunch=50
  • Yogurt Burst Strawberry=46

You probably don't need Yale to tell you that Chocolate Cheerios aren't all they're cracked up to be, but Honey Nut Cheerios?  Come on General Mills. Most parents I know think of Honey Nut Cheerios as nutritious. But with a score of 46, Honey Nut Cheerios are in the lower half of the range, and right down there with Chocolate Cheerios.  And with Cocoa Puffs (44).  And not too far from Trix (42).

  • Regular Cheerios have 1 gram of sugar per serving.
  • Honey Nut Cheerios have 9 grams of sugar per serving.  That's 2 more teaspoons of sugar.

You don't need Yale to tell you which cereals to buy.  And you don't need to read nutrition labels either.

All you have to do is think about your kids' habits.  Want them to develop more of a hankering for sugar? Go for the sweetened stuff.  Want them to be more receptive to broccoli? Shoot for less sweet flavors instead. Read Why Toddlers Don't Eat Vegetables.

If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck...Anything that tastes like a treat should be used like a treat.

Believe it or not, I'm not against sugary cereals.

Sugary cereals have their place in the diet, but it's usually in the snack drawer. Or in my case, the summer vacation drawer. Read Why I Feed My Daughter Inferior Food

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~


Does Whole Foods Want to Harm Kids' Eating Habits?

Whole Foods wants your kids to eat cookies for breakfast. 

Don't get me wrong, I don't think that Whole Foods would say they want your kids to eat cookies for breakfast. They'd say they want your kids to eat a healthy cereal.

That's why they contracted with Arrowhead Mills to make an Exclusive for Whole Foods whole grain cereal.  They should have just contracted for the cookies. It would have been more honest, and a lot more helpful to parents.

Remember: every bite trains your kids' tiny taste buds.  Every bite sets their expectations about what food should taste like too.

Did you know that cereals geared to children have 85% more sugar, 65% less fiber and 60% more sodium than cereals targeted to adults?

These Chocolate filled Squares are no exception: 14 grams of sugar per serving. That's 3.5 teaspoons per cup.

A cup of Froot Loops has 12 grams of sugar.  And half the calories:

  • One cup of Chocolate Filled Squares=210 calories
  • One cup of Froot Loops=110 calories

Read about "kid-friendly" cereals: A Spoonful of Sugar?

You'd be better off giving your kids actual cookies for breakfast.

4 Chips Ahoy Chocolate  Chip cookies deliver 13 grams of sugar.

And your kids will think of them as cookies, not as something healthy.

Whole Foods is hoping you suffer from a condition I call Selective Attention and the Feel Better Approach (SAAFBA).

If you don't know about SAAFBA read Virus Sufferers Choose Granola.

In a nutshell: Whole Foods is hoping you'll look at the fiber and protein and not at the sugar. 

  • Each serving of the Chocolate-Filled Cereal has 4 grams of fiber and 5 grams of protein. 
  • The cookies can't compete with only 1 gram of fiber and 2 grams of protein. 

But your kids can't taste the fiber and the protein. It's taste which shapes eating habits.

These squares taste like chocole chip cookies. Trust me. My husband and I scarfed down 1/2 a box on our way home from Whole Foods.  They're dangerously addictive!

The more frequently you give your kids food that tastes like cookies, the more your kids will expect food to taste like cookies.

Feed your kids a steady diet of Chocolate Filled Squares cereal for breakfast and good luck getting them to eat broccoli for dinner.  (Everything is related.)

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~