Being a busy mom, I find that mornings are especially chaotic and not friendly to a leisurely, home-cooked breakfast. Not only that, my kids' favorite breakfasts involve foods that are high in fat and calories and not healthy choices. One of the best breakfast options out there is cereal. So many cereals on the shelf are full of sugar, high fructose corn syrup, artificial colorings and lacking in protein - but appealing to kids, thanks to colorful pictures, candy-like flavors and cartoon characters. It's hard to find a cereal that pleases both children and parents, but it is possible. Here are some guidelines that I try to follow when I'm shopping for cereal. (Psst - I never bring the kids.)
- Keep the sugar low - I remember when I was a child my mom always told me never to buy cereal with a sugar count over the magic number of 10. Ten grams of sugar means that the box is 10% sugar, and that's high enough for it to still be tasty.
- Whole grains count - just like when you shop for bread and pasta, whole grains are important in cereals as well. Whole grains are processed by the body slower and keep your child from suffering an insulin crash.
- Fiber, fiber, fiber - tastier and easier to encourage a child to eat than a prune, shoot for a cereal with about 3 grams of fiber per serving.
- Protein is a muscle builder - protein is metabolized slower and helps to keep the body fuller for a longer period of time, crucial on school days when concentration is key. Try to find a cereal with at least two grams of protein, and remember that the milk you pour on it - be it cow, soy or a nut milk - adds additional protein, so drink up every drop.
Despite these guidelines, it can be tough to get the kids weaned off of the sugary stuff. One trick that works really well in our family is to mix one box of a very low-sugar cereal - think Cheerios, Grape Nuts, etc. - with a higher, more child-friendly request - Lucky Charms or the like.
What are your family's favorite low-sugar choices? Mine include Mighty Bites, Kix, Life and Mini Wheats.