Your Kid's Brain on Cereal

Kids' Cereal: Is It Food?

by Dr. MaryJo Wagner

Last year our teenage grandson lived with us. He had some adhd behavior, little motivation for school, and lousy grades.

We loved having him with us but what a challenge. Just getting Caleb to eat breakfast at all, much less a healthy one, started out as a struggle. But it was step one toward doing better in school and helping tame the adhd behavior.

We're at the grocery store. He wants Froot Loops for cereal. I say "No, not only are Froot Loops not cereal, they aren't even food."

But by the time the year with his grandparents was up, Caleb was happily eating a low sugar, high protein and fiber, whole grain cereal for breakfast.

In the end, he chose the Kellog's Frosted Mini-Wheats, not me--a cereal with a whopping 74 out of 82 on the Cereal Nutrition Scale versus Kellog's Fruit Loops with a measly score of 38.

So how did I get Caleb to eat a relatively healthy cereal which he chose?

Here's what happened. Told him he'd play better football if he'd eat better. Taught him how to read labels. Made a contest out of it. And declared that sugar-coated cereal would never appear on our shelves. Period!

To push my limits, Caleb asks about a cereal that is frosted. I repeat the no sugar-coated cereal at our house.

Then he, in typical teenager fashion, goes back to the cereal he chose so he can prove to me that it meets my standards. And he was right! He had found a cereal, despite the frosting, that's low in sugar for packaged cereal and relatively high in protein and fiber.

He won the contest, but I won the goal of getting him to eat a healthy breakfast.

Do whatever you can to get your kids interested in eating well. Teach them to read labels. Make a game out of it.

What they eat affects how well they learn. So a kid who survives on junk food loaded with sugar and fat will struggle more with learning and have more behavioral issues including ADHD-like symptoms.

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