This post is dedicated to two incredible mums (Mandy and Renee) I met at a recent workshop I ran. These mums are doing a brilliant job at being a stand for their children’s health, yet they said, “Breakfast cereal is my downfall. What do you do for breakfast?”
Firstly let me tell you a little bit more about Mandy and Renee. They are making a stand for not only their children’s health, but also the other children in their community. They contacted Israel to bring our Australian Tour to Transform Children’s Health to their school and then they actively pursued the school principal until she agreed. As a result, the entire school population of 111 children participated in The Mad Food Science Program™. They have also started an organic wholefood collective in their school, and now about 25 families are reaping the rewards of having organic fruit, vegetables and meat at affordable prices.
They are inspirational. They are doing a brilliant job but still want to do even better.
If you’re feeling the same way about breakfast, that it’s your downfall, and you want to do better, then I want to say to you, the same as I said to them.
You’re doing an amazing job already, do not beat yourself up over breakfast cereal.
Breakfast cereal is big business
There’s a reason why cereal has become a staple in many Australian households – let’s take a look at some stats:
1. The breakfast cereal industry is worth $1.2b per year
2. Australia is the third highest consumer of breakfast cereal in the world (UK and Ireland are ahead)
3. Australians purchase approx 8kg of breakfast cereal per person per year or 185 million kg per yearr
4. ABS stats report the following about the consumption of ready made breakfast cereals by different age brackets. As you can see, a lot of children are eating breakfast cereals. The drop off when they are older seems to be replaced by those not eating breakfast at all – now that’s another post altogether.
- 2-3 year olds => 54.2%
- 4-8 year olds => 51.5%
- 9-13 year olds => 38.4%
- 14-18 year olds => 30.9%
5. In 2008 David Gillespie, author of Sweet Poison did a summary of sugar in breakfast cereals. At the time of creating this summary, there were approx 150 different breakfast cereals in Australia. If you want to learn more about the number of teaspoons in the different cereals in kid sized portions of about 50g, then check out David’s summary here.
Stats 1 to 4 were found on Cereal4Brekkie, which is a website run by the Australian Breakfast Cereal Manufacturers Forum (ABCMF).
Pretty easy to see why breakfast cereals are big business and why many households rely on the for breakfast.
A few words about breakfast
Let me start by saying breakfast is an important meal. It’s the meal which breaks our fast after sleeping but even more important than that, it’s the meal we send our kids to school on.
Breakfast is supposed to support a child’s learning. It’s supposed to help their brain and keep them full for long enough to concentrate for about the first 1-2 hours of the school morning.
Many breakfast cereals are high in sugar, and or additives and preservatives, and they are usually just empty carbohydrates (high energy, low nutritional value). The reality is they are probably not hitting the mark in preparing our kids brains and bodies to be best they can be for the start of their day. BUT, don’t beat yourself up about this, let’s see what you can do to improve on this.
Some breakfast advice for you
It’s important to remember carbohydrates are an energy source, and the quality of carbs determine how long your body will use the carb.
Brain function and satiety is really important and to achieve this, you need protein and good fats included in your child’s breakfast.
You may find this post – why protein is important for breakfast – written by my sister about her breakfast protein experiment she did with her 12yo daughter (my gorgeous niece). It highlights in real life the importance of including protein in your child’s breakfast.
Are you ready to tackle dropping cereal?
If you’re ready to take on the challenge of dropping cereal altogether, you may like the ideas in this post – A week without breakfast cereal.
In addition, the ideas below may also help you on those days where life gets a bit busy and you do fall back to your breakfast cereal.
Are you NOT ready to tackle dropping cereal yet?
Whether you’re not ready because your kids love cereal or because it’s a convenience thing, that’s totally ok but I would love to offer you a simple way to help give your child a better start to the day. It’s this:
Ask yourself: “How can I get extra nutrition into them before they go to school?”
Simple ideas to add extra nutrition
1. Minimise / eradicate any added sugar or honey put on top of the cereal.
Replace this with fresh fruit like bananas, strawberries, blueberries etc
2. Add nuts and seeds (pepitas, sunflower)
They contain good fats and protein
3. Make a smoothie
Give them a smoothie as well as the cereal – reduce the amount of cereal. This is a recipe I use for my kids when I don’t have time to cook a breakfast and know I am going to fall back on cereal or granola. It’s packed with protein and good fats. It serves 2.
- A small handful of mixed nuts
- 1 frozen banana
- 1 tblspn cacao
- 1 egg or ½ avocado
- 2 tblspns coconut cream
- 1 -2 cups almond milk (adjust this by the thickness you want)
- Throw it all in a blender and blitz until thick and creamy.
If I don’t have mixed nuts, I throw in a couple of tablespoons of LSA which I generally always have in the pantry.
4. Add banana or apple slices topped with peanut butter
Anything tastes good with peanut butter but when you take the natural sweetness of fruit and top it with peanut butter, it’s heaven.
5. Add natural greek yoghurt to the top
If your children are used to sweetened yoghurt, add a drizzle of rice malt syrup to the top of the yoghurt
6. Serve a boiled egg too
Perhaps even a slice of toast cut into fingers for dipping
7. Serve some toast with avocado and toasted cheese
Put this out whilst your getting their cereal (see transitioning away from cereal)
8. Mix through a small amount of homemade granola or muesli
See transitioning away from cereal for ideas on this
9. Have a bacon and egg pie on the side
Simply wrap some bacon around the holes in a muffin tray, drop in an egg, and cook in the oven until the egg cooks (see transitioning away from cereal).
10. Take a look at the ingredients of your breakfast cereal
Specifically look at the amount of sugar. If you realize it’s higher in sugar than you like, then find a better alternative. You can either go cold turkey and make the swap once the current cereal runs out or you may like to adopt the strategies in Transitioning away from cereal.
Transitioning away from cereal
Everytime I want to change the way my family is eating, I adopt this transitioning approach (unless it’s a pressing health concern when more drastic change is required).
Give them what they want (eg. the kids want cereal), add in what you want (a new brekkie food), then eventually crowd out what you don’t want them to have (ie. cereal).
Here’s a couple of tactics for you to use.
Serve things as a side to the cereal
You can always serve the above extra nutrition items as a side serve to the cereal and reduce the cereal quantity.
Fill them up on the good stuff first
This is quite simply give them the good stuff (extra nutrition ideas) first. Tell them to eat that whilst you’re getting their cereal sorted. They fill up on the good stuff and you don’t need to give them as much of the cereal.
Mix it in
This is where you mix in a small amount of what you want to give them with what they want. So lets take a look at how this might work for you.
Your kids love a crunchy breakfast cereal that’s fairly sugary.
You would dearly love them to eat something better like a homemade granola or toasted muesli.
You pour the normal amount of breakfast cereal then put back a small amount. Add in a small amount of the granola or muesli and mix it in well in the bowl if you can. Add the milk etc.
Gradually over time, change the quantities of each slowly. For example start off with 90% cereal, 10% granola. Then maybe next week, reduce the cereal to 85%, and increase the granola. Keep doing this gradually until ultimately they are eating 100% granola. Take as long as you need to transition your family – this is not a race to win, this is a way of life to win.
You’ve got this. Breakfast is about to get more nutritious.