Cereal, Snacks and the "Sugar Game": What They Mean to My Family

Hear from Melissa as she shares a story about how reading nutrition labels impacts her family.
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My daughters had been begging me to buy a particular box of cereal for the month of March. In our house, cereal is either healthy enough to be considered a breakfast item (by virtue of low sugar and high protein and fiber), or it is a dessert treat that we buy once a month. This box of cereal was the “dessert” cereal for the month of March. I brought the cereal home today, and the girls cheered with excitement, knowing that dessert tonight would be a bowl of crispy chocolate cereal in cold creamy milk.

I returned to work back in my office. Suddenly I heard a soft knock and saw the eyes of my 7-year-old Margaux peeking through the cracked door. I knew it was important. I stopped my typing and invited Margaux in, with her earnest, somber face. In her little hands, she held the box of chocolate cereal. “Mom, I just checked, and this cereal has 13 grams of sugar. I don’t think it’s very healthy at all.” She was conflicted — a gift of being a reader and being incapable of unseeing what she had read on the label. What followed was a conversation about our health, making balanced choices and reading labels. We brainstormed some options that would enable her to enjoy the cereal sometimes, but without feeling bad about it. (Simply not eating this cereal again, however, was not on the table for Margaux.) We talked about maybe buying a treat cereal less often — perhaps every six weeks — and making the servings a little smaller in order to reduce the sugar. She suggested maybe skipping the piece of candy she is allowed at the movies next time to balance out the sugar. (I don’t hold high hopes for her making good on that one, if I’m honest.)

In any case, we had a discussion about food, our health and our bodies, and it empowered my 7-year-old to think about balance and what felt right for her. And while she still wants chocolate cereal (I can’t blame her; she gets her sweet tooth from her mom), I am grateful that she is taking a moment to consider the impact to her health. I want my children to grow up with the ability to select their foods mindfully, not just skip unhealthy foods because they are “forbidden.”

For a fun way to talk to your children about nutrition labels, try playing the “sugar game” with them that I described in The Picky Eaters Project.

And for kid-friendly recipes that are just right for picky eaters, see this gallery.

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