We’ve long been told (and probably tell our kids) that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Though nutrition researchers are still trying to figure out if it’s the most important we do know that breakfast helps start your day out right. Studies have shown that eating breakfast helps kids concentrate better in school and perform better on tests. Breakfast is also associated with maintaining weight and keeping blood sugar more stable throughout the day (with regular meals/snacks).
But all kids breakfast foods are not created equal. We want to make sure we’re sending our kids out the door fueled with nutritious, wholesome food but it can be so hard when our time is limited, kids won’t get out of bed, and making eggs and toast seems like too much. The quick kids breakfast food options are often tasty and appealing to kids, but they are often filled with hidden sugars.
Hidden, or added, sugar is the new phrase everyone seems to be talking about these days. This is the result of new guidelines that kids should not be eating more than 25 grams of added sugars per day, and the revamped Nutrition Facts Panel that will make these guidelines easier to track. The new panel will now have a separate line for added sugars--as opposed to naturally occurring sugars (like lactose in milk). For example, when looking as at a cup of yogurt, we will now be able to see how many grams of sugar were added to your kid’s breakfast yogurt (and other foods) and how many come from the yogurt itself.
Hidden sugar in your kid’s breakfast food can come from cane sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, maple syrup, honey, molasses, and more. Sugar is hidden under many different names and ingredients, so it is important to always check the label and see how many grams (g) of added sugars are in the product. For reference: 1 packet of sugar is about 4 grams. So kids daily intake of hidden sugar should be less than 6 packets (about 6 teaspoons).
This adds up quickly. Hidden sugars in your kids’ breakfast foods are found in flavored yogurts, smoothies, cereals, granola bars, instant oatmeal, and juice. Even many favorite breakfast additions for kids like peanut butter, frozen & dried fruits have hidden sugars. How should you avoid some of these sugars hidden in kids breakfast foods? Next time you go to the grocery store, start checking the labels! Depending on the flavor and brand, the amount of hidden sugar in your kid’s breakfast food can be your kiddos total daily recommended amount - in just one meal! A recent comparison found that the fruited version of yogurt had about 8g of sugar more (2 packets of sugar) than the plain. If your favorite brand of yogurt hasn’t implemented the new nutrition facts panel--and there is just a line for “sugars”--just compare the plain version to the flavored version and you can figure out how much sugar is really hidden in that breakfast food through subtraction of the total grams.
It’s easy to get caught up in the advertising when kids’ breakfast foods are branded as high protein, or superfoods, or whole grain, or high fiber, or chock-a-block full of vitamins and minerals. Hidden under all those words (and what makes kids like the breakfast foods in the first place) is probably a lot of sugar. Be sure to start a habit of checking when you shop and you’ll be on your way to removing hidden sugars from your kid’s breakfast foods.
PS - So what to feed our kids instead?
- Plain oatmeal made with water (or milk) with frozen berries and a tablespoon of nut butter
- Smoothie made with plain greek yogurt, frozen berries, 1-2 tbsp of oats or flax, and a few dashes of milk
- Yumble’s EGG-CELLENT CHOICE! with homemade shredded hash browns
Adolphus, K., Lawton, C. L., Champ, C. L., & Dye, L. (2016). The Effects of Breakfast and Breakfast Composition on Cognition in Children and Adolescents: A Systematic Review. Adv Nutr, 7(3), 590s-612s. doi:10.3945/an.115.010256
American Heart Association. https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/pdf/10.1161/circulationaha.109.192627
Barbara Gordon, RDN, LD. Breakfast: Key to Growing Healthy. Eatright.org https://www.eatright.org/food/nutrition/eating-as-a-family/breakfast-key-to-growing-healthy