Healthy Choices For Children: A Critical Look at Gerber Graduates Cereal Bars and Healthy Alternatives
Meredith Magee Donnelly / Guest Blogger
Looking at the list of ingredients on a box of Gerber Graduates Cereal Bars I was surprised to see high fructose corn syrup listed as one of the first ingredients in both the crust and the filling. On the back cover of Nutrition Action Healthletter, one of my favorite sources for nutritional information, there is a section called “Food Porn” which highlights some of the worst foods you can eat. If I was to create a list entitled “Baby Food Porn” Gerber Graduates Cereal Bars would be high on my list.
While the effects of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) remain a controversial issue, some facts are not debatable. HFCS is cheaper than sugar and extends the shelf life of processed foods and is, therefore, popping up in many foods on your supermarket shelves. Right now it is too early to tell if HFCS is any worse than sugar. This seems to be a moot point. Food marketed to children should not have HFCS (or sugar) as one of its main ingredients. HFCS is high in calories and low in nutritional value. According to the Mayo Clinic website, regularly eating food that contains HFCS “has the potential to promote obesity — which, in turn, promotes conditions such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and coronary artery disease”. The fact that Gerber is promoting its cereal bars in their campaign “Start Healthy, Stay Healthy” is nothing short of deceitful.
Let’s set our children up for success by teaching healthy lifestyles that do not promote foods full of high fructose corn syrup and sugar. Here are a few snack/breakfast alternatives to Gerber’s cereal bars for children over the age of one.
Plain whole milk yogurt with maple syrup and wheat germ: Look for organic yogurt whenever possible (tip: large containers are a better deal than the 6 ounce containers). Real maple syrup is a must- brands like Aunt Jemima contain mostly corn syrup. Sprinkle this yummy snack with wheat germ to add a great boost of protein, potassium and iron.
Whole wheat pasta with marinara and parmesan cheese: Fun pasta shapes like Hodgson Mill’s Whole Wheat Veggie Wagon Wheels make all the difference in this healthy snack! Be careful in choosing a marinara sauce, while high in flavor they can also be high in sodium.
Let these snacks be a starting point to inspire you to create healthy snacks and meals for your little ones.