Cereal Killing

Cereal has been in the news a lot lately.

The Washington Post letters to the editor page has seen a significant debate back and forth on whether cereal is a good way to start the day at breakfast, or whether sugary cereals have ruined the kind of breakfast Americans used to eat.  The President of “Morning Foods” for Kellogg’s wrote in to emphasize the nutritional value of a cereal breakfast, noting that “[a] serving of cereal and a half-cup of skim milk can provide protein and four nutrients most people don’t get enough of: fiber, calcium, vitamin D and potassium. That meal is also 152 calories; a bagel with cream cheese has more than double the calories and saturated fat.”  He added that “Kellogg’s offers more than 20 cereals that provide a good source of protein when eaten with a half-cup of milk, and more than 90 percent of our cereals have 10 grams or less of sugar per 30-gram serving.”

f14cc6b5-59c8-4468-b1be-a50e3689fb18_1-303be2af9801047b84102e79b4624761I’m not sure what a “30-gram serving” is, but of course the problem with cereal is not whether you can structure a breakfast that makes sense from a nutritional standpoint.  No, the problem is moderation and portion control.  Even if people knew what a “30-gram serving” looks like, they end up eating heaping mixing bowls of cereal while they’re watching TV.  Or, at least, I do — which is why we have a longstanding rule to not have any cereal around our house.  In my case, where I’m helpless to resist the lure of Frosted Flakes and would eat a whole box if given the opportunity, total abstinence is the only practical course.

And here’s another issue for cereal manufacturers:  millennials aren’t eating it.  But their objection isn’t nutritional in nature; instead, according to survey data, many millennials apparently don’t like eating cereal for breakfast because you have to clean up after eating it.  The millennials prefer yogurt cups and breakfast sandwiches because you can just throw the remains away, whereas cereal requires that you rinse off the bowl and spoon and put them in the dishwasher.  This has caused some people to make fun of millennials as lazy, but I think millennials simply acknowledge an important point — if you don’t fully rinse off the bowl after you’ve eaten cereal, the remains of the cereal and the milk create some kind of chemical bond with the bowl, leaving the flakes seemingly welded to the sides of the bowl, that makes later clean-up an enormous hassle.  If you’re rushing to get to work in the morning, therefore, maybe cereal isn’t for you.

Poor cereal!  Caught between the Scylla of poor nutritional value and the Charybdis of too much work to consume!

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