Saturday, February 14, 2009

Cereal for Breakfast?

I’ve been having mixed feelings about cereals for a long time. But not anymore.
A few months ago I ran into this book called Mom-a-licious: Fresh, fast, family food for the hot mama in you! written by Domenica Catelli. She thinks that eating cereal is like eating candy for breakfast. I never thought about it that way before. She convinced me with her argument. In a minute I’ll explain. But before I do, I have a few questions. There’s a point. I promise.

* When a persistent sales’ person is trying to sell you something, how do you feel about it?
* Do you listen to them patiently or do you feel like running away?
* If they are at your door, will you open it?
* Does he or she usually convince you?
* Do you end up buying it?
* Is the experience a pleasant one or does it make you nauseous?

Well…
My desk and computer are in the family room and when I sit to write on the weekend, my kindergartener is watching TV in the same room at the same time. I could not help but notice the abundance of cereal commercials for kids. It’s really annoying, whether you like cereals or not. It’s just… too much.
I think all commercials aimed at kids – who don’t earn their own money, so they are not consumers yet, in my eyes – are annoying, but that’s another story.

Up until a year ago we had 5-6 boxes of different cereals on top of the refrigerator. That was my son’s main breakfast. That’s all he wanted to eat and nothing else. After a while, it really started to bother me. Well, more than bother me. Actually, I hated it.
Then the battle began to stop it. Why?

The big guns of the cereal marketing got me to believe it is healthy, more than healthy, the ultimate breakfast – quick, easy, no sweat, healthy, heart-healthy, whole grain healthy, etc etc, and the kids love it. No picky eater’s scene in the morning while still trying to drink my coffee.

Then I started reading the labels.
And even beyond the labels, I started realizing that serving yogurt, cheese, fresh fruit, is just as easy and even better than serving cereals and it’s a better habit to eat fresh food than something out of a box.

So we started with 2 days a week that my son had to choose something else to eat. Then we went up to 3 days. Now he doesn’t eat it anymore (unless we’re on vacation outside home) and I don’t buy it anymore.

Mark Bittman in his book “Food Matters” writes what I think about cereals:

“Once upon a time, cereal meant oatmeal, or even relatively benign corn flakes or puffed rice. But many of today’s packaged cereals have long lists of ingredients… it can be as simple as putting oat flour into a cereal that is effectively a boxful of small cookies… a cereal contains 30 percent sugar, as many do. Yet a claim like “may help reduce the risk of heart disease” may be featured on cereals that contain less than a gram of fiber… it’s like adding vitamin C to a candy bar and maintaining that the candy is good for you”.
“The marketers of cereal and many other foods if often shamelessly aimed at kids… The marketers have invaded every possible space”.
I explain to my son and I tell him that if cereals were that good and healthy, these people who are trying so hard to sell it to us wouldn’t have to advertise it so much to convince him/us to buy it and eat it.

Surprisingly, for his age, he understands that.

4 comments:

Kevin said...

It has been a long time since I last had a boxed cereal for breakfast. In fact, now a days I seem to enjoy savoury breakfasts more often. Whole grain salads with vegetables and such.

ChefBliss.com said...

Great article -- I only buy cheerios and I make my own granola. But I have to admit I pine for Cap'n Crunch often! LOL!!! But I just can't bring myself to splurge when I look at the ingredients and the price. You are doing a great thing.

kate said...

It is crazy, isn't it? My mother rolls her eyes at the fact that I still "prepare" breakfast for my two little ones each norning. Some days it's scrambled eggs, others it's fresh fruit and yogurt too. When we recently stayed at a hotel that had a huge breakfast buffet, both of my kids were in awe of the "colored" cheerios (fruit loops) in one of the containers. They begged, they pleaded, "please, mom, can we have it?!!!" I gave in, but still mixed it with cheerios!

I eat Kashi cereal every so often, if you haven't tried theirs, do so, they have a great variety and you'll be pleasently surprised by the list of ingeredients!

Corn said...

I agree and that is one of the first things to go in my kitchen too. They add those labels on there to make you believe that its high in fiber, but we can ingest more natural fibers without all the sugars. Thanks for posting this.