Too Much of a Good Thing? Fortified Cereal Could Pose Risk to Kids

Child eating cerealCereal can be a nutritious and easy option for parents looking for a quick breakfast during the morning rush to get kids ready for the day. But how do you choose the “right” cereal?

Navigating the cereal aisle of the grocery store can be a daunting task for even the savviest shopper. Breakfast cereals can contain not only large quantities of sugar but also vitamins and minerals added during the fortification process to make the product appear more nutritious.

A new study done by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) found that millions of kids are consuming dangerous amounts of vitamin A, zinc and niacin. Breakfast cereal may be the cause. Nutrition labels on the back of most products put out by the Food and Drug Administration are based on daily values for adults. This leaves children and adults susceptible to over fortification. For example, one serving – typically ¾ to 1 cup of cereal – can have over 35 percent of your daily intake of zinc or other vitamin or nutrient.

That doesn’t seem so bad, right?
That serving size is intended for adults, not kids. Combine that with a study done by General Mills that found that 6 to 18-year-old children and adolescents eat about twice as much as suggested serving size, and the actual intake of vitamins and minerals can be much higher.

What’s the big deal? Vitamins are good for my children’s health, right?
The goal is for the majority of nutrients in the diet, to come from naturally occurring food sources as opposed to synthetic forms obtained from supplements and/or fortified foods such as breakfast cereals.

What do I do about it?

  • The EWG gives some great recommendations like educating yourself and avoiding certain cereals. Learn more about the EWG’s recommendations to keep your kids healthy.
  • Glance at the American Heart Association dietary guidelines for children and teens.
  • Help your children develop good habits when it comes to breakfast. As with all meals, the breakfast plate should be a combination of foods including protein, carbohydrates, and fruits and vegetables.
  • Variety is key, not just within the meal, but from day-to-day to avoid excessive consumption of any one food (including over-fortified cereals).
  • If your child is eating a balanced diet, they likely don’t need vitamins and minerals provided by fortified foods.
  • Pay attention to the cereal serving size listed on the nutrition facts.
  • Consider speaking with your pediatrician or a registered dietitian to assess the adequacy of your children’s diet and the need for vitamin/mineral supplementation.

Tell us some of your children’s favorite breakfast foods!

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