There is plenty of talk about healthier options when it comes to the school lunch programs, but I’m going to leave that alone for the time being and focus on an area where many families have the greatest leeway as well as the greatest opportunity for making real change for better health – breakfast.
Unfortunately for the American diet in the long run, Dr. Kellogg provided us with what turned into a rather empty gift when he introduced the first breakfast cereal back in 1894. Since then, puffed, flattened, baked, extruded, sweetened, salted, vitamin-stripped and synthetically vitamin-amended grains have found their way into the daily breakfast bowl, often to the detriment of our teeth, energy levels, waist-line and wallet. Breakfast cereals are one of the biggest losers in our shopping basket with the one of the highest price tags per serving - low on nutrition, high in sugars and sodium, and far from their original form as a whole food (the whole grain marketing being a huge misnomer), they are an empty source of calories with negative side effects.
The Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity conducted a study that showed that the 10 worst breakfast cereals for children are also the ones most vigorously marketed to children - to the tune of more than $156 million dollars per year. It is now becoming clear that diets with an excess of sugar and refined carbohydrates are the biggest contributor to the unfortunate but growing trend of childhood and adolescent obesity. Listed below are the biggest offenders, but in fact all sweetened cereals - organic or not - are on the list of low nutritional-value foods.
1. Kellogg - Corn Pops (or Pops) - Chocolate Peanut Butter
2. Quaker - Cap’n Crunch - w/ Crunchberries
3. Kellogg - Special K - Chocolatey Delight
4. Kellogg - Special K - Blueberry
5. General Mills - Reese’s Puffs
6. General Mills - Fiber One - Caramel Delight
7. Kellogg - Cocoa Krispies - Choconilla
8. General Mills - Golden Grahams
9. General Mills - Cinnamon Toast Crunch
10. Kellogg - Corn Pops
The biggest drawback to children eating sweetened breakfast cereal on a daily basis is that growing bodies and busy minds need more than empty carbohydrates to stay fueled throughout the morning school day. Choosing a breakfast that has better balance between a high quality protein, a truly whole grain, high fiber carbohydrate, healthy fat and very low sugar - only in the form of fruit - will send them off better prepared for sustained energy and an alert brain.
Ideal breakfast choices would be eggs in any form: scrambled with lean meats and vegetables, whole grain breakfast burritos filled with eggs or beans, potatoes, and a little cheese; egg sandwiches on whole grain bread or rolls; whole grain oatmeal (regular or steel-cut oats - not sweetened quick oatmeal) or a gluten-free hot breakfast cereal topped with chopped raw nuts, seeds or nut butter plus fresh or dried fruits; whole grain toast with nut butter and banana or apple slices; whole milk yogurt topped with fresh fruit, thawed frozen berries, nuts, seeds, or a sprinkle of maple-sweetened granola.
It’s a misnomer to believe that children won’t eat anything unless it’s sweet. As parents, it’s our job to be not only the providers of a safe, healthy upbringing for our kids, but also role models for good nutrition. Reducing sugars across the board is the first place to start – and contrary to popular belief (and their own preferences), children can learn to eat less sugar – their tastebuds can and will adjust to a low sugar diet. We just need to be the ones to help them get there.
1 cup leftover baked, boiled or mashed potatoes OR 1 large potato (8 ounces), peeled and cut into small (1/4”) cubes
4 (9-to 11-inch) whole wheat flour tortillas
7 to 8 ounces leftover chicken, ham or beans
4 large organic eggs
1 teaspoon water
1 tablespoon coconut oil, olive oil or butter
1/2 - 1 cup coarsely grated cheese (2- 4 ounces), preferably organic
1 avocado, sliced
About 1/4 cup fresh or bottled salsa
Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Wrap tortillas tightly in a large sheet of foil and warm in oven until heated through, 10 to 15 minutes.
If starting with raw potato, cook the small cubes in a small pot of salted boiling water until just tender, about 5 minutes, and drain.
Warm a medium skillet over medium heat, and add oil or butter. Add meat and sauté to warm, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add leftover or drained potato and cook over medium-low heat, stirring, until tender and lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and cover to keep warm. If using beans, warm in a small saucepan until heated through.
Scramble the eggs by whisking together eggs, water, a large pinch of salt, and a pinch of pepper in a medium bowl. Heat a small skillet over medium heat until hot and add oil or butter. Add egg mixture and cook, stirring to scramble, until just cooked through. Remove from heat.
Put a tortilla on 1 sheet of foil. Spoon equal amounts of meat or bean mixture, eggs, cheese, avocado, and salsa to taste in vertical rows across center of each burrito, leaving room to fold over bottom and sides. Fold bottom of tortilla over most of filling, then fold over sides, overlapping them. Wrap foil around each burrito, leaving tops exposed. Serve hot.