Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Breakfast Bar Wars Redux

Okay, you've read Amy's position on the breakfast bar wars... And here's where I stand on them: I hate them. If you haven't already, you can read about where she stands on them here.

I know Amy thinks I'm a bit hypocritical on this, because I've bought the kids chocolate breakfast cereals (organic, but still loaded with sugar)--though, to be perfectly clear, this is an occasional indulgence and most mornings we serve eggs and turkey bacon, or homemade pancakes or waffles, or oatmeal. As for the frozen waffles, these are something I would not buy, but when they are in the freezer and Amy is making them for her kids, I will give them to my kids as well (I can't fight on everything). And the fact is, I wouldn't blink at giving the kids a (homemade) muffin that had as much sugar as one of Amy's bars.

But my issue with breakfast bars is not, as Amy thinks, about the nutrition, though I do refute her claim that breakfast bars are nutritious. I would always choose a breakfast food that contained just organic brown rice flour, organic evaporated cane juice, organic cocoa, natural chocolate flavor, sea salt, organic molasses and organic rice bran extract (which is what Koala Krisp, an organic cocoa cereal I have purchased, contains) over one that contains, among many other items, high fructose corn syrup, "shellac," and ethanol. Lots of fiber does not automatically make a food nutritious. As for protein, both a Fiber One bar and a bowl of Koala Krisp contain 2 grams.

The bars do contain lots and lots of fiber. But as long as the kids' diet is relatively balanced, they don't need a candy bar to deliver 9 grams of fiber in one shot.

And that's part one of my issue with these bars: coated in chocolate, they're essentially candy bars. I don't think Amy would let her kids eat a Snickers bar for breakfast, even if it contained all the fiber, protein, and vitamin C a growing kid needs; it's still a candy bar. And candy bars should not be eaten for breakfast. Amy points out that the bars contain lots of vitamins B6, B12, and niacin, but you know what else contains loads of those vitamins?

Diet Coke Plus, the new vitamin-enriched Diet Coke. And I'm pretty sure Amy wouldn't let her kids drink that for breakfast.

If it's just vitamins Amy's after, she can always give her kids the handy daily vitamins prescribed by their pediatrician, which happen to contain all the vitamins the kids need. Granted, they don't contain protein or fiber, but the kids' fiber needs can easily be met with the bananas, oranges, and whole wheat bread they eat. As for protein, the milk, cheese sticks, peanut butter, and yogurt they eat every day, not to mention the meat they eat for dinner, more than cover the kids' daily needs.

But, I digress… I said earlier that my main problem with these bars is not nutrition. It's that these bars are fast food. Let's face it, sometimes you need fast food, and I've been known to buy the kids Happy Meals to eat in the car—but only rarely. And that's how I think bars should be dispensed. I know there are times when kids are rushed in the morning or need an afternoon snack on the way to drama class, and I'm fine with bars for this purpose. But when there's plenty of time in the morning for a sit-down breakfast, and Matty's already made pancakes and turkey bacon and Amy's making scrambled eggs, why on earth would you allow your child to choose the quick fix, the fiber-filled candy bar?

We have both posted about our love of the family dinner, which we try to enjoy as often as possible. But what about the family breakfast? Numerous studies show that family dinners do everything from keeping kids slim to keeping them off drugs. They also teach kids that mealtime is important, that eating in and of itself is important, that's it not just about getting the calories we need to function—if that were all we wanted, why stop at breakfast bars? We could chow down on lunch bars and dinner bars and never have to sit down to eat.

As adults, we often find ourselves complaining that our lives are so rushed. Too often we're forced to grab meals on the go, from a microwaved burrito at 7-Eleven to drive-thru McDonald's. Why would we force this on our children at such a young age? Because that's the appeal of these bars (which are certainly marketed toward adults): They're individually wrapped and ready to go! Perfect for the busy parent! Eat one in the car on your way to work!

The fact is that in our house, we have plenty of time in the morning for a sit-down breakfast as a family. This morning everyone slept a little late, but we still had 15 minutes to sit down and eat. And we did sit down and eat, together, as a family. Sure, it's hectic, but we manage. There's no need to stick a candy bar in the kids' hands and let them wander around the house while they eat. They'll have plenty of time for that when they're older.


Unknown said...

I've thought about this carefully and I have one observation and one comment

Keri says that she has plenty of time in the morning, but it sounds like Amy is saying that she still feels rushed sometimes. And although it sounds like all the adults pitch in with all of the kids, Amy is one adult (when husband leaves early for work) ultimately responsible for 4 or 5 kids including baby twins, while Keri and her helpful husband are the primary wranglers of 2 (for now).

I am voting for Team Amy based on one simple question: Why can't Keri just say no to her kids? Like this, "Declan, I know that Hillary is eating a bar and you want one, but those are not for you. I'm cooking a fantastic breakfast for you and it will be ready in a minute." Her kids might be mad at first, but once they know the deal, they'll comply (or not, but each mom is still the boss of her own kids). If Keri is secure in the value of her food choices, then she won't feel any guilt whatsoever about simply saying no and feeding her kids whatever she likes.

Sorry... but you asked my opinion!

Keri said...

To be clear, there is always a nanny on in the morning to help Amy with the kids, one of which, at almost 7-years-old, can certainly get herself ready.

I'm not sure why Amy feels rushed... Matty is the one who makes sure we all get of the house on time in the morning--he starts the car, arranges the car seats, and starts the countdown when we have 10 minutes to go.

It's not a question of guilt regarding the food choices... the fact is, you can't tell a 2-year-old that he can't eat what his cousin, who's sitting right next to him, is eating. At least you can't without a great deal of tantrum.

But this goes both ways. If I want to give my kids dessert, and Amy's kids haven't "earned" it, I will wait until her kids leave the kitchen before dishing out the ice cream. I would never deliberately taunt her kids with a treat they couldn't have, and as far as I'm concerned (and as I want my kids to be concerned), the chocolate-covered breakfast bars Amy's buys are treats.