Several years ago, when my husband’s cholesterol was a touch on the high side, I enforced an ultimatum of food choices requiring a breakfast cereal notorious for the heart conscious (I will call this ‘Toasted Os’). I also switched to a healthier cooking oil and reduced meat in our weekly diet. It seemed to work, his cholesterol declined drastically, so I insisted the cereal remain a staple or I would remove more fun and inviting diner foods.
In 2009, the FDA issued a warning letter regarding the statistical claims that a person’s cholesterol can lessen by a certain percent in a small amount of time and cried “misbranding” that food ‘can reduce risk factors of heart disease’. This allowed for a cereal debate for the household. I see now that one needs variety in breakfast choices, but in 2009 I was not convinced.
Fast forward to last year and the labeling issue was finally resolved allowing ‘Toasted Os’ to encourage their product in conjunction with a healthy diet, i.e. low in saturated fat and cholesterol and high in soluble fiber. If I read the resolution letter correctly it appears there is 1 gram of soluble fiber per serving and you need 3 grams of soluble fiber in your daily diet to chip away at your cholesterol.
Three servings of cereal is quite a bit. A single serving of ‘Toasted Os’ is ¾ cup. If one consumes the necessary 2 ¼ cups of cereal, with skim milk, they will have 50 carbohydrates, 360 mg of sodium and 20 grams of sugar. That is all well and good; however, which meal do you replace with the cereal? I would hate to think that people are ramping up their breakfast size and continuing to consume normally throughout the day. Something has got to give.
A side bar- This diet fad where all you consume a bowl of cereal for every meal is ridiculous. Of course you will lose weight, you are only eating 3/4 cup thrice per day. A diet requires variety in order to receive all the vitamins and minerals the body requires to function. Continually eating the same thing conditions the body to look elsewhere for what it needs. Cereal is a carb, and you will get a quick burst of energy, but then what? When I eat carbs I find I am hungrier sooner. This diet enforces poor eating habits by a). Limiting food variety and b). setting the standard to ignore hunger.
But I digress. Back to the ‘Toasted Os’. While working on my food label project at work, I made a startling discovery. It does not matter what breakfast cereal you choose, they are all the same. In comparable serving sizes they have the same calories, fat, carbohydrates, sugars and dietary fiber. Doesn’t matter if it is a chocolate cereal, has added marshmallows, or is frosted. Those labels are near identical. Lazy Mom issues an apology to her husband for enforcing a boring breakfast cereal over multiple years.
Lazy Mom suggests: next time you are on the dreaded cereal aisle with your child, let them choose any cereal they want (I understand if you are avoiding artificial dyes as part of a diet targeting hyperactivity). But let’s face the truth. Whole grains are important for reducing cholesterol in adults and breakfast is the most important meal of the day for everyone.
Looking at Youth Risk Behavior Surveys nationwide, more than half of Middle and High School students are skipping breakfast. So start the precedence now. Breakfast is important, all cereals are essentially equivalent nutritionally, pick your battles and let the kids choose one thing they will eat, and perhaps your spouse too.