Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, right? A healthy breakfast can help kids pay attention and do better in school. In adults, a good breakfast can reduce hunger and help with weight control. That’s probably not new.
You may be surprised to learn that many popular breakfast foods for children—and adults—are anything but healthy. In fact, many of these choices more closely resemble candy and soda than a healthy start to the day!
This is the topic of my Health & Fitness column in the Aiken Standard this week. It was also a project that one of my students, Brittney Austin, worked on this semester. While some of the results clearly showed that some breakfast foods were essentially candy, like frosted Pop-Tarts which have nearly as many calories and as much sugar as a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.
In other cases, the comparison is more complicated. For example, Sunny D orange drink contains only 5% juice but has as much added sugar as a Coke. It is essentially orange soda without the bubbles. But when you consider that 100% orange juice has as much sugar as the Sunny D, maybe the “orange soda without bubbles” isn’t so bad.
But it is! While it is true that the sugar content is essentially the same, the real orange juice also contains vitamins and minerals. And even though some “juice” drinks have added vitamins and minerals, the real juice is still better. Here’s why: children who drink the artificially sweetened juice flavored drinks may become accustomed to the unnaturally sweet taste and find that they don’t like naturally sweetened juice or whole fruit. So even if the nutrients are the same as real juice, the “juice” drinks can lead kids away from eating fruit—a bad outcome!
Take a close look at what your children eat for breakfast. Is it a healthy meal or candy and soda in disguise? And take a good look at your own breakfast. It may not be much better!