Tuesday, 25 January 2011

What do your kids eat for breakfast?

Do you insist on only healthy options? Or do you take the view that anything is better than nothing? Do yours even HAVE breakfast?

I know, that last question sounds shocking but I went to a event called Snap, Crackle and Blog at Kellogg's UK headquarters last Friday, and they revealed that 1 in 6 children do not eat breakfast, 1.7 million of which are children under 6. I think that last statistic shocked me most - babies and toddlers, with tiny tummies and who need to have food regularly, going without breakfast. That's awful - I can't believe all of those 1.7 million children don't want to eat in the mornings. On top of that, school children spend £646 MILLION pounds on the way to school buying snacks and drinks. That's over £3.5 million every school day.

Kellogg's are obviously the market leader in the UK breakfast cereal market. Their market share is way ahead of their nearest competitor - something like 40% with the next biggest around the 15% mark. Obviously, it is in their interest to tell a group of mum bloggers that statistic, because maybe our blogs about the event will mention it and maybe more people will buy cereals to eat breakfast. But is that so bad?

We all know that breakfast is a positive thing. It helps us to function better throughout the day. Getting a child to eat breakfast is a habit we want them to have for life. But many of the breakfast cereals on the market have what people perceive to be large amounts of sugar in them - think Coco Pops - and consider that to be bad. When we were there, and we were discussing this with one of the Kellogg's dietitians, I remembered a programme I watched a couple of years ago made by Professor Lesley Regan looking at children's products and part of which investigated sugary cereals. Lo and behold, I have managed to find a video of that programme for you to watch here (and funnily enough, Kellogg's are featured). It also features one of my favourite bits of trivia from last Friday - that most people who consume Frosties are actually young men, rather than small children. Brilliant.

So, maybe we all need to relax about things like that - they get so many other things from it. For instance, cereals are now the leading dietary source of iron for most children. Speaking for myself, I am happier if Monkey and Missy Woo have the healthiest options for breakfast but occasionally, they have Chocolate Weetabix, and sometimes for a special treat, I buy them chocolate spread for special breakfasts. But when it's run out, I don't automatically replace those things and they are happy enough having less sugary cereals like Rice Krispies. Missy Woo is currently having a big porridge phase and will devour bowls of it with only a few raisins added to provide sweetness. I'm happy with that balance - they understand that some things are treats and not to be eaten every day. Were I to have a really finicky child and a sugary cereal was the one thing they would eat for breakfast, I'd give it to them. So shoot me.

Still, Kellogg's say they are looking to reduce the sugar content of some of their sweeter cereals. That has to be a gradual thing because tastes change slowly, although they can be changed. The same applies to cereals. There will come a point where they can't reduce it any further because we just won't eat it. I'm thinking of some reduced salt and sugar baked beans that taste so bland, I want to add salt so I don't buy them.

Beyond the serious side of nutritional messages, it was a great event and I met some lovely bloggers for the first time, and some others for the second or third time. Kellogg's had us "making" our own cereal - and even designing our own cereal packet. I use the term designing loosely as I am so not crafty, it's embarrassing. Still, I think I did OK - and the cereal is actually quite edible. Here's mine, along with a few things that Kellogg's gave us to take away.

And yes, that is my face on a Cornflakes packet! If you saw my Silent Sunday post this week, hopefully all is now explained - they took photos of all of us at the start and then printed them on either a packet of Cornflakes or Rice Krispies for us to take away. Incidentally, did you know that the cockerel on the packet is called Cornelius? (Geddit?) I didn't!

Because I can't fit them all in, I've put pictures from the morning into a slideshow for you to peruse at your leisure.

Apart from coming away with arms laden with stuff, the one thing that stuck with me is this: children need breakfast. And as things go, cereal ain't necessarily that bad an option. If your child will only eat the sugariest thing on the supermarket shelf, let them have it. In the grand scheme of things, it's no biggie. If that's OK by Professor Regan, then it's OK by me.
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