Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but are you really giving your body the nutrients it needs? Or worse, are you filling up on toxic chemicals while trying to get that recommended serving of whole grains?
Breakfast cereal is one of the greatest things since sliced bread. But building evidence suggests that breakfast cereals can be one of the worst things to serve your family.
If we actually knew the ingredients in our food—or even pronounce them—we would be very distrustful of the food industry. Knowing this, the food industry has several tactics to keep consumers in the dark.
- Using long chemical names – some ingredient labels leave us feeling like we failed second grade reading! If we can’t pronounce it and don’t know what it is, it’s easy to shrug our shoulders and hope for the best
- GRAS – countless items in our foods contain ingredients that the FDA has deemed “Generally Regarded As Safe”, or GRAS. In reality, many of these substances are not safe. The system allows quick approval of substances without thorough scientific evaluation and assessment. A substance is deemed GRAS if it is safe when used in its intended amount; however, there is no regulation for the actual quantity used in food once it receives its seal of approval.
- Prizes, box toppers, and characters – it’s a well-known strategy to use popular characters, designs, and prizes to entice children and adults alike into buying the product without evaluating the ingredients. If there’s nutritional reassurance of vitamins and whole grains and the prize makes my child happy, the rest can’t be that bad, right?
The Shocking Truth
As consumers, we must educate ourselves when it comes to our food. This especially applies to processed food. The food industry profits from too many loopholes and cover-ups, not concerned at all that their products make their consumers sick.
Breakfast foods are not exempt from the processed food list. And some of the chemicals found in the cereals we give our children may shock you.
Trisodium Phosphate (TSP)
TSP is a heavy-duty cleaner for removing mildew, mold, and grease, often before painting walls. Ingesting TSP results in abdominal pain, a burning sensation, and even shock and collapse. The CDC recommends avoiding all exposure to it, and a quick Google search yields many how-to alternatives because TSP is so toxic.
So why is this toxic chemical in our food? It’s only purpose is to reduce the acidity in foods which helps maintain color and uniform processing. And you guessed it: TSP is on the GRAS list.
Sugar doesn’t rank high on a toxic chemical list. However, the American Heart Association recommends only “6–9 teaspoons, or 25–37.5 grams, of sugar a day” for adults and less than 25 grams, or 6 teaspoons a day for children ages 2-18.
The scary part? Children ages 1-3 consume 12 teaspoons of sugar a day, 4-8 year-olds consume 21 teaspoons, and 14-18 year-olds consume 34.3 teaspoons of sugar in one day! High sugar consumption is linked to obesity, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. These diseases put children at risk for heart disease later in life.
Sugar is used in cereals to enhance the taste and keep you (and your kids) coming back for more. But just think, your child could easily consume half or more of their daily sugar intake in just one bowl of cereal!
Butylated hydroxyanisole acts as a defoaming agent for yeast and protects the processed fats from turning rancid, spoiling the food’s taste or color. Nobody likes stale, rancid, or funky-colored cereal, so this is the cheapest way to keep it all uniform.
However, several laboratory studies have shown carcinogenic effects in rats, and the National Institutes of Health’s National Toxicology Program warns that “BHA can be ‘reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.’”
But Wait… There’s More!
These three chemicals alone should send us running to our pantries with a trash bag ready to pitch all cereals that contain them. While you’re at it, keep an eye out for the hidden processing horrors of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), hydrogenated oils, soy lecithin, dyes, and annatto, among other chemicals, that may land even more products in the trash. There has never been a more critical age than now to educate ourselves on what’s in our food!
Ready to make a change to your morning routine? It’s not as daunting as it may seem! Try these alternatives for better energy, improved mood, and healthier lifestyle.
1. A Better Breakfast
Ditch the cereal route and add some variety to your breakfast. Health.com lists 20 best foods to eat for breakfast. Topping the list is oatmeal and greek yogurt, which are easy to personalize with fruit, nuts, or a touch of maple syrup or honey to cut back on the sugar. Eggs are also high on the list, with plenty of protein an nutrients to keep hunger at bay.
A rainbow of fruits can also brighten your morning! Grapefruit, bananas, melons, and berries are all excellent additions to your breakfast that satisfy your sweet tooth.
2. A Better Cereal
Still can’t resist the urge and ease of cereal? You’re in good company. The natural cereal aisles are exploding with new brands, flavors, and grain combinations. Most natural food brands are mindful of the origin or their ingredients and how much sugar are in their cereals, but always check for yourself!
Nature’s Path, Envirokidz, and Erewhon top this list of best cereal alternatives for kids, with lengthy lists of best cereal alternatives for the whole family.
3. A Better Routine
We’ve all heard that smaller, more frequent meals is better for our bodies, minds, and budgets. This routine is worth taking a try, although it does take some planning. Keep healthy snacks like nuts and breakfast bars in the car, fruits and proteins in the fridge at work, and cut back on sweets to curb cravings. And remember–this isn’t an excuse to eat extra meals–portion control is key!
Here’s to You
It’s easy to stick our heads in the sand about where our favorite foods come from, but this will only be to our detriment. Conventional, processed foods lead us down a path of illness, and their toxins are in the very first things that pass our lips in the morning. Instead, choosing real food with real nutrients and in smaller portions can help us live happier, healthier lives.
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