Most parents would shutter at the thought of serving their kids candy for breakfast, but a new report shows that the cereals we’re giving them are really no better.
The Environmental Working Group analyzed more than 1,500 cereals—including 181 marketed to children—and found that kids’ cereals “were especially prone to extreme sweetening.” How extreme? A daily serving of kids’ cereal “would add up to eating 10 pounds of sugar a year.”
The group sentenced the biggest offenders—those that are more than 50 percent sugar by weight—to its “Hall of Shame.” Those include: Kellogg’s Honey Smack’s and Post Golden Crisp. Those that met it’s criteria for low sugar included: Kellogg’s Rice Krispies, General Mills Cheerios, Post 123 Sesame Street, and Kellogg’s Corn Flakes.
So what’s a parent to do? Breakfast may be the best meal of the day, but it can also be the most challenging. When battling the time constraints that come with getting kids (and yourself) out the door as well as trying to appease the pickiest eaters in your bunch, simply getting food into them can be a victory. Cereal is often a go-to for moms and dads in need of a quick and popular option.
But ask the Internet (and mommy bloggers in particular), and they shall deliver. Here are a few healthy alternatives to feed the family:
1. Overnight oatmeal: If you’re on Pinterest, then you’re probably familiar with overnight oatmeal (or muesli or Swiss oatmeal). The simple combo of oats and some liquid soaked overnight blew up on social media last year, probably because it’s so tasty and so convenient. What’s better is that it’s customizable, meaning you can satisfy the different taste buds at the table. My recipe of choice is a 1-1-1 ratio of oats, vanilla soy milk and yogurt (although sometimes I skip the yogurt), with fresh berries, a spot of honey and cinnamon. You can make these cups ahead of time, store them in the fridge and have a quick-and-easy breakfast base your kids can dress up on their own. Pinterest remains the best place for inspiration.
2. Yogurt parfait: A variation of overnight oatmeal is the old-school yogurt parfait. But to keep it healthy, you’ll want to avoid flavored kids’ yogurt–they can be a dumping ground for sugar and have little nutritional benefit. Plain yogurts you can sweeten with a natural product like honey are a safe bet. Then add some fruit, and for crunch, a low-sugar cereal like Cheerios.
3. Peanut butter, banana, and whole-wheat bagel (… or toast… or wrap): Most grown-ups know that peanut butter isn’t just for lunch. Natural peanut butter is chock full of benefits, and, unless they’re allergic, kids tend to love it. (If they are, try soy nut butter.) If bananas don’t fly in your house, apples, strawberries or blueberries are a good sub.
4. Egg in the Hole: If your kid is all about the creative delivery of their food (say pancakes in the shape of a certain mouse), then consider whipping up an egg in the hole. A little more labor intensive than the other options (but not by that much), the dish involves cutting and removing a hole in the center of a piece of bread, heating it in a skillet, cracking an egg in said whole and cooking it. If you’re feeling particularly sentimental, you can make a heart (or mouse) in the center of the bread.
5. Green Smoothie: Smoothies, like 90s fashion, are en vogue once again. But the circa 2014 smoothie is a bit healthier and less milkshake-like than its earlier incarnations. Green smoothies, ones that sneak in veggies, are a great way to do just that—sneak veggies into your kids’ diet. Whipping them up is a snap, especially with all the blenders on the market, and they actually taste really good. If they’re freaked about the color, just tell them it’s zombie juice or Hulk juice or Tinker Bell’s magical juice.