Lessons from the Cereal Aisle

So we’re in Costco and I HAD to go in the cereal aisle to get my big honkin’ box of Quaker Oats.  The reason I did not WANT to go into the cereal aisle is that my twin 5 year olds were with me and I have successfully kept their cold cereal world pretty limited in scope, although they have become aware over the last however long that there are other options out there.  Anyway, I HAD to do it, and being too tired and cranky to devise a clever distraction, I decided the speed method would be adequate.  Right.  It took about a millisecond for them to notice and gravitate toward the most egregious options on the shelves.  A chorus of  “Mama, can we please, ” and “This looks really yummy,” and “Sophia says HER mommy buys her these” erupted in rapid fire.  Don’t know if you’ve ever had two five year olds begging from you at a store before, but it’s not pleasant.

I took a deep breath and said, “Okay, guys, do you want to know why I’m going to say no to all of those?”  They nodded.  Right there in the Costco aisle, I began turning the enormous cereal boxes on end so we could look at the nutrition information.  I showed them the line for sugar (and we did a little reading practice, yay).  We noted the sugar content for each of the options that they had chosen (they ranged between 10 and 12 grams per serving).  We then noted the sugar content for Kashi’s Heart to Heart, a cereal we have offered them in the past (5 grams).  They were surprised by how much less it was.  I then showed them the Quaker Oats box (unfair, since it’s just oats, but it helped make the point – 1 gram).  I was expecting continued complaints, because that’s what they’d been doing for most of this particular store visit, but miracle of miracles, they then offered to help put the oats and the Kashi in the cart.   Simple as that.

Now I should say that we talk about nutrition a LOT at our house, so this wasn’t really simple as that.  However, all of these conversations have to start somewhere.  I’ve found that when they believe the choice I’m forcing on them really is something I’m doing because I believe it is healthy for them and not just because I’m in charge, the level of compliance goes WAY up and the level of complaining decreases.  With that said, my kids do love some sugary stuff and cereal is particularly challenging.  In our current state of heightened awareness, I’ve decided to implement an old policy of mine, the cereal mix.  If my children want a sweeter cereal (and for us right now that means a 5-8 grams of sugar cereal), they must also have a lower sugar cereal mixed in.  I’ve got a big bag of whole grain O-shaped dealies with a 3 grams of sugar for just such a purpose.  If they resist, I suggest oatmeal instead.  They have made both choices, and have generally accepted the lower sugar payoff without much noise.  In return for my authoritarian behavior, I have the assurance that they’re having a little less sugar (good), I take one step further in re-educating their palates to healthy levels of sweetness (fruit is unbelievable when you pull this off), and I get the immeasurable pleasure of experiencing children who’s highs and lows don’t swing so very far (a blessing).  No mid-morning meltdowns or post-crash tears.

This is NOT just about kids, though, is it?  The health problems that Dr. Lustig associates with sugar affect so many adults in the United States.  And yet, breaking the sugar habit, even with the knowledge of its impact on our collective health, seems awfully difficult when we love sweet things and food manufacturers are more than happy to provide them for us.  It calls for a certain level of vigilance that may seem unreasonable.  But what if we just take it meal by meal, decision by decision, baby step by baby step?

So maybe your own breakfast needs a little review.  I’ve been working on my own morning bowl, at the moment a mix of three different cereals with raisins and nuts plus almond milk.  The first couple of days I was okay with it, but honestly not wildly enthusiastic.  It wasn’t yucky or anything, it just didn’t give me that morning sweety-yum.  Now I look forward to my big bowl of mixed bits that has helped retrain my tastebuds.  I CRAVE my breakfast bowl.  I kind of want to go make one right now…  The inspiration for my breakfast bowl was Rip Esselstyn’s Big Bowl.  Now before you go copying Rip’s breakfast item for item, I would like to point out that Rip is a firefighter AND triathlete, so while everything in there is awesome for you, you might find the quantity overwhelming if you choose his bowl without editing.


  • 1/4c raw old fashioned oats
  • 1/4c Ezekial brand grape-nut type cereal
  • 1/4c Kashi Cinnamon Harvest
  • small palmful raisins
  • small palmful walnuts
  • almond milk

Delish.  And lower in sugar than any of my previous breakfast encounters.  So satisfying.  No sugar high, no gross greasy feeling, just good healthful and yummy fuel that will keep you feeling satisfied FAR longer than a bowl of sugar poo.  So here’s to the naturally sweet life, one bowl at a time.  More to come in our Sugar Busting series….

21 responses

  1. Your mix sounds good! I also make a ton of granola. I do usually use a good bit of sweetener but you can definitely sweeten it to taste. And the cold cereal we buy is mostly Cheerios-type. I once bought a box of Trix (it was for a recipe, don’t ask) and the kids thought it was going to be for an art project. 🙂

    • Ha! I love that. My kids pre-k used both Froot Loops and the marshmallows from Lucky Charms for crafts recently and I was surprised as I was helping how few of the kids asked to eat them. When I brought this up to the teacher, she said they had told them at the beginning that too many people had already touched them – germs. Maybe I should just sneeze on everything I don’t want them to eat. 😉

  2. Trix as art. That is a wonderful thought. You certainly shouldn’t eat that stuff – obviously it’s purely decorative ; ) Love it. And is you recall, Little Sis, Biggest Bro used to sneeze on his French Fries so no one would steal any. It worked!

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  4. Hey Little Sis! What is your opinion of cereals that have no added sugars, but are still rich in “complex” sugars from raisins, dates and other dried fruits? Muesli’s and granola’s are famous for this, even the cinnamon raisin Ezekial. I feel like these are exceptions, what do you think?

    • I agree because the fruit at least provides nutritional value, know what I mean? With sugar, it’s just blech, but with fruit the very least you also get is fiber, and then all manner of vitamins, etc. I think you’d have to work REALLY hard to get as much sugar from those as well. I think you’d get full first, if that makes sense. Honestly, I’m not ready for cereal without fruit, so maybe I’m just rationalizing. 😉 Thanks for asking. So lovely to talk to you!

      • Haha! Well if you’re rationalizing, then that makes two of us! I’m sure you feel the same way that adding that natural punch of sweetness makes the cereal! Adds so much character and such a great flavor, can’t imagine my mornings with it! Thanks for responding!

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