Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Breakfast Bar Wars

I’ve posted before about how little the adults disagree in our house – how we avoid unnecessary confrontation and try to maintain consistent rules for all the kids. And we definitely have different philosophies, especially where food is concerned. Before we combined households, Keri and Matty were Whole-Foods shopping, organic-grocery consuming professional chefs who made everything from scratch. We . . . weren’t. But I think everybody is happy with the compromises we’ve reached: we buy some organic foods, but when it comes to preparing meals for 13 people, we all agree Costco strip steak at $5.49 a pound is a reasonable alternative to Laura’s hormone-free, grass-fed, Mozart-exposed cuts at whatever mortgage-necessitating price Whole Foods is charging these days. And Andy and I were happy to give up our regular take-out meals in front of the TiVo for the family dinners that began once the Fisher-Murphys moved in (except for American Idol night, when we all eat take-out in front of the TiVo). So you can imagine how surprising it is to find ourselves at an impasse that threatens to rupture the peaceful community that has co-existed for almost two years – especially over something so trivial as . . . breakfast bars.

You know, breakfast bars. Our two favorite brands are Fiber One and Nugo. They’re quick, nutritious, and the kids love them. Given that I’m often waking Erika and Hilary up less than forty-five minutes before they have to leave for school, bars have always seemed to me like a way to make crazy mornings a little less crazy.

Problem: Keri and Matty don’t want their boys to have breakfast bars. Which would be fine, except that if Declan and Ronan see the girls eating bars, then they want them too, because they’re so very tasty. So I’ve stopped offering them as an option, and when it happens that the girls come down early and help themselves – as happened this morning – I usher them and their bars out of the kitchen and make them eat somewhere upstairs where their cousins won’t find them. Which always makes me feel like a hypocrite, since that’s what I usually have for breakfast myself.

Andy and I just don’t understand why Keri and Matty are so opposed to bars. Keri claims they’re just candy bars. But no candy bar I ever ate had nine grams of fiber (like Fiber One bars) or eleven grams of protein (like NuGo bars). Is it the chocolate in the bars that makes them too much like candy? Hard to imagine, since chocolate cereal is okay – although it’s nutritionally inferior. One half-cup of Koala Crisp, the organic chocolate rice cereal the kids love, has ten grams of sugar, exactly the same amount in the Fiber One bar (the NuGo bar, which is a little bigger, has 13g). But it only has 1 gram of fiber and 2 grams of protein. Adding milk helps with the protein, but the girls usually have milk with their breakfast bars too, so both sides get that benefit.

What about pancakes or waffles, another popular – and acceptable – choice? Well, we’re spoiled in that Matty makes homemade pancakes a couple of times a week and I have no idea what the nutritional info. on those are, but here’s what you get in an Eggo waffle: 2.5g protein, 0g fiber and an appalling lack of vitamins. NuGo bars have more than four times the amount of vitamins A, B6 and B12, thiamin and niacin than waffles do, as well as eight times the calcium and folic acid. While it’s true that each waffle only has 1g sugar straight out of the freezer, once you add 2 tablespoons of maple syrup you also add 24g sugar and over 100 calories – which, speaking of candy, yields a breakfast with a nutritional profile alarmingly similar to that of a serving of Twizzlers. And all that sugar and refined flour wreak havoc on your glycemic index, causing a rapid rise, then fall in blood sugar levels. Fortunately, the kids are still young enough to be funneled more empty calories by their teachers in the form of goldfish, graham crackers and the like, which is probably all that’s keeping them from crashing by circle time.

It’s been said that your rights stop once they infringe on mine, and –as much as I love Keri and Matty, and as much as it pains me to hurl such tyrannical accusations at them – their right to keep their kids from eating bars for breakfast infringes on our kids’ right to eat their breakfast bars. Which brings to mind another saying Andy taught me years ago about mutually exclusive states of being: when one person wants to box, and the other person wants to wrestle, they wrestle. So, in a last ditch attempt to resolve this seemingly irresolvable debate, I’m prepared to offer Keri and Matty their choice of boxing or wrestling. Either way, I like our chances.

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