nutritional minefield also known as the breakfast cereal aisle is
always challenging to navigate. Moms and dads learn, to their
dismay, that "kid cereals" are placed directly at children's eye
level. And a study released late last fall confirmed what we always
suspected: The least healthy cereals are the ones most often
marketed towards kids.
The report, from the Yale University Rudd Center of Food Policy
and Obesity, found that cereals advertised toward children have 85
percent more sugar, 65 percent less fiber and 60 percent more
sodium than those aimed at grownups. What is especially alarming is
that many of the cereals with the poorest nutrition ratings boldly
add health claims on the front of the package.
DEAR GOOD SENSE EATING
What should I look for when shopping for kids'
Look for cereals with whole grain as the first two grains in the
ingredient list; rich in fiber, especially intact fiber; and low in
sugar - aim for less than 10 grams per serving. Also, choose
cereals that don't change the color of the milk in the bowl.
If you want to translate grams to teaspoons of sugar, divide by
four. Example: A cereal with 19 grams sugar (without milk) has just
under four teaspoons of sugar per serving. Watch out for portion
size, with each cereal different.
Where are these cereals advertised? Saturday morning cartoons
and after-school TV programs. According to a November 2009 study by
The Nielsen Company, kids age 6-11 watch 28 hours of live TV each
week. And despite a two-year pledge by more than a dozen major food
corporations to advertise more nutritious foods, about two-thirds
of those company ads continue to promote foods of low nutritional
value, according to a study released in December by the University
of Arizona and commissioned by the advocacy organization Children
Other Yale University findings:
In a separate Yale study, children served low-sugar cereal
consumed less sugar overall, even after they added table sugar,
compared to children given highly sweetened cereals. Significantly,
they liked their cereal equally, whether highly sugared or not.
One researcher who has studied Saturday morning cartoons is
Deepa Handu, RD, PhD. Her findings, which she presented at the 2009
American Dietetic Association Food and Nutrition Conference &
Expo, found that of nearly 500 food-related commercials, nine out
of 10 were for foods high in fat, added sugars or sodium. Handu,
assistant professor and director of the Master of Science program
in Nutrition & Wellness at Benedictine University, also found
that the primary advertising appeals used were action, fun and
cartoon-animation. In other words, hard for a kid to resist.
A growing area of child-targeted advertising is online. Internet
games and marketing through social media such as Facebook are
capturing our children's attention. Eleven of the 13 cereals
advertised most to kids on TV are also marketed heavily on the
Internet. A study found that children visiting one cereal Web site
remained there an average of 23.7 minutes per visit-deeply engaged
with the brand.
Handu, herself the mother of a preschool-age son, says parents
may allow their children to have some sweet and sugary foods in
moderation. She also suggests we cut down on TV time. "It
indirectly influences your child's food choices. Promotions linking
children's entertainment characters to fast foods meals and other
low-nutrient foods encourage children's requests for unhealthy
What else can you do? Mix sugary cereals with unsweetened ones,
encourage your child to watch public television and contact your
legislators about this issue. Congress will be looking at marketing
restrictions later this year.
In food processor, process cheese, honey and zest until well
mixed, or mix in bowl with wooden spoon. Spread 1 Tbsp. cheese
mixture on cut side of one muffin half; top with 1/4 cup
strawberries. Repeat with remaining ingredients to make
eightopen-faced sandwiches. Makes 4 servings. Tip: Make cheese
mixture ahead and store in refrigerator.
Nutrition facts: 215 calories; 5 g fat; 11 mg
cholesterol; 277 mg sodium; 37 g carbohydrate; 4 g fiber; 7 g
protein, 20 % calories from fat.
Source: The California Strawberry Commission
Christine M. Palumbo, RD, is a registered dietitian in
private practice in Naperville. She can be reached at (630)
369-8495 or ChristinePalumbo.com.
Christine M. Palumbo, RD, is a nutritionist living in Naperville.
See more of Christine's stories here.
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