In a recent article published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, researchers examined the effectiveness of a USDA approved program targeted at increasing the number of children who ate breakfast in the morning. The project, Grab n’ Go featured brown paper bag meals with names like ‘Get Going Go-Gurt’ and ‘Get Rolling.’ The projects concept is worthwhile. Nearly 42% of children do not consume breakfast seven days a week. Along with this eating pattern comes numerous consequences including increased risk of weight gain, fatigue, inattention and irritability. A simple meal of whole grains, fruit and protein in the form of yogurt, nut butters or eggs will often energize the body through lunch.
However as worthwhile as the Grab n’ Go program may seem, the food featured in the breakfasts are subpar at best. In the ‘Get Going Go-Gurt’ bag children receive two tubes of Go-Gurt, a box of animal crackers, banana and milk. While yogurt is an excellent source of protein, Go-Gurt also touts a hefty dose of sugar (in the form of sugar and high fructose corn syrup), plenty of preservatives and dyes. Besides protein, yogurt is often full of active cultures, which are beneficial for digestion and gut health. These cultures are absent in Go-Gurt. Animal crackers are an acceptable afternoon snack when pared with a piece of fruit or vegetable crudites, but for breakfast? To make the sugar situation worse, children have the choice between white and chocolate milk, which isn’t really a choice when it comes to children. In addition to ‘Get Going Go-Gurt’ there is Chicken On a Roll (dinner roll with chicken nugget, apple), Get Rolling (dinner roll, honey and butter), pretzel twist (salted pretzel and string cheese), Power Parfait (yogurt, granola with raisins and fruit packed in syrup) and Mighty Muffin (two mini muffins).
These breakfasts are far from providing nutritionally optimal food to our nation’s children. Nowhere are the usual breakfast staples of non sugared oatmeal, whole wheat breads, nut butters, non processed yogurt, fresh fruit or non sugared breakfast cereals. If these breakfasts meet USDA approval is it any wonder we are a nation facing a staggering obesity rate? Everyone is quick to point the finger for the cause of the obesity epidemic. But has anyone considered the problem might begin in childhood? Has anyone considered the twelve years of food children consume every day from age of 6-18 at school? Has anyone considered when it became acceptable to call two mini muffins or animal crackers a substantial breakfast?
It’s something to think about.