Thursday, March 22, 2012

Badvertising: Is This the Worst Breakfast you Could Ever Feed Your Child?


Along the lines of my post yesterday on chocolate milk.....

So let's say you've got a plate of "protein, calcium and other nutrients" ready to go for your kid on the run.

Would you still think serving it to them would be a good idea if just before you handed it to them you poured on 9.75 teaspoons of sugar?

Guessing you've put 2 and 9.75 together - every bottle of Carnation Breakfast Essentials Rich Chocolate Milk contains 9.75 teaspoons of sugar. That's more sugar drop per drop than Coca-Cola!

I'm not sure there's any food or nutrient on the planet where the benefits of its consumption would make cutting it with 9.75 teaspoons of sugar worthwhile, and truly wonder whether if the choice were between serving no breakfast and serving this drek, if serving no breakfast wouldn't be the better option.

What do you think?

[Just for fun, did a bit of math. If you gave your kid one of these a day for a year, they'd consume just over 31 pounds of breakfast sugar, just over half a 5lb bag a month]

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38 comments:

  1. What about the Sugar Free ones?

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    1. Haven't seen. If I find time, will look later this morning.

      Given 60% of calories in non-sugar free ones come from sugar, I wonder what they've replaced them with?

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    2. Anonymous10:38 am

      No breakfast would be exponentially better.

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  2. Our local Head Start program was serving toddlers PopTarts until my Dietitian friend took over and re-wrote the menus. Even a Slimfast RICH CHOCOLATE ROYALE SHAKE would be better - 6 tsp. sugar.

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  3. Anonymous8:44 am

    I enjoy your writing and I check your website every day. I do wish though, with all your experience counseling people on food, that each time you say not this, you would offer a more appropriate option. I'm not feeding my kids chocolate milk or coke, but there are many days when it is hard to move my youngest past bread and butter, or pasta and parmesan.

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    1. Anonymous5:19 pm

      I agree - that would be helpful. Also, does anyone have any suggestions to help a child with autism gain weight. Doctors agree he is at an unhealthy weight, but no one seems to have an answer. A pediatric dietician suggested to continue giving him milkshakes everyday. Mind you, these are shakes from fast food places, not shakes with nutrition added. So many children with autism have eating "issues". Eating just isn't important to him. He will only eat/drink a few things. He likes chocolate milk. Likes fruit juice and fruit cups. Likes water. The only "meat" he eats is breaded fish sticks and chicken nuggets. He will eat a small amount of spaghetti with meat sauce, and seems to like a small amount of macaroni and cheese. Rarely eats peanut butter anymore. He ate zucchini bread at my home recently. Any suggestions on something to help him gain weight? I would appreciate any suggestions anyone may have.

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    2. Anonymous10:17 am

      Have you considered making milkshakes at home? Maybe try adding some protein mix to the milkshake, and see if that helps at all? Just a suggestion, as it seems that he loves milkshakes already!! (Who doesn't haha!)

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  4. Anonymous9:42 am

    Seriously, you'd rather a child never eat breakfast than have this drink which obviously has important nutrients along with a lot of sugar? I'd not recommend it as a usual breakfast, but I'd say it's better than nothing at all! My experience is from being a teenage girl who went through a period of time in high school where I 'felt sick' in the morning if I tried to eat breakfast (early bus schedules really suck). Even at that time, I knew I should get something in me in the morning (must have been the future dietitian in me), so I went through a phase where I would drink these in the morning...although mine was a powder that I mixed with skim milk. Would I have been better off drinking just the skim milk? Maybe, but the extra protein from the powder helped me not get hungry until the next time I was able to eat (I always packed healthy snacks and lunches for school, I just honestly couldn't stomach eating breakfast that early).

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    1. Anonymous2:47 pm

      Most children, if not given the option to eat junk like this, would come around eventually and eat a healthy breakfast. In many ways it's better to eat nothing at all than eat an a multivitamin and a 9 tsp of sugar, because that is what this "breakfast" is.

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    2. Anonymous6:28 pm

      There are other options. We blend up a mixture of fruit, plain greek yogurt, nuts, flax meal, milk and an all natural (no sugar or artificial sweeteners added) protein powder every morning. It's delicious! The kids will usually have it along with toast, eggs or cereal and drink the left overs as an after school snack. As parents, we do not have to cave to such poorly made convenient 'foods'-there are ways to make whole foods convenient too!

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    3. Anonymous10:26 am

      You sound like excellent parents and your smoothie sounds very healthy. When I was a teen, it was up to me to get my own breakfast, my working parents handed that responsibility off to me and there was no way I would have put something together like that, even if I had the time. Of course today I could come up with much better breakfasts and I likely would never feed carnation instant breakfast to my kids, but you have to know better to do better. We need to be offering parents realistic solutions and giving them the education they need to feed themselves and their kids well. My mother likely thought this was a healthy drink, as she didn't know any better.

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  5. I saw this print ad in a Canadian parenting type magazine and just about lost it. Nothing says nutrition and health like a premixed sugar drink. My kids don't like shopping with me anymore because when they ask me for something, they have to be able to read all the ingredients aloud and sugars cannot be in the first five. This was something they had asked for.

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  6. Anonymous1:47 pm

    Just under ten teaspoons of sugar, absolute diabolically genius, the sibling nestle vending machine goods will be very attractive by probably 10 in the morning if you slurped this at eight.

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  7. I lug to all my presentations what that 31 pounds looks like ... http://bit.ly/awEpYV

    It's my contention that this visual should be in every doctor and dentist's waiting room with a can of soda (12-ounce can has exact same amount of sugar).

    On another note, thanks for this observation: I'd describe obesity as the natural consequence of placing a collection of truly ancient genes, genes forged over millions of years of incredible and constant dietary insecurity and upheaval, into an insane, calorific, modern day, dietary utopia. In other words? Obesity and overweight are our bodies' normal, natural, responses to the world they find themselves living in.

    The fact is that right now the accepted global viewpoint is that if obesity is a disease it's a disease of willpower, of gluttony, of sloth.

    My hope is that one day obesity will be seen as a modern day scourge, a day when the trite advice "all you need to do is eat less and exercise more" is seen by the general public as over-simplified nonsense.

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  8. Seeing posts like this make me take note of the shift in attitudes toward food over the last 20 years.

    At the time, there was still more emphasis on whole foods, and little things like this didn't seem like a big deal. We didn't go to the store and spend hours picking apart a label. There wasn't as much judgement when my mom bought Gushers or served cake at a birthday party. Some people now act as if you're giving strychnine to their kid if you even mention cake.

    Admittedly, processed food is akin to poison. I wouldn't feed my worst enemy on it. I'd love to look at some old food labels and see if the ingredients were different. Is it just that we ate less crap and moved more then, or are they packing it with more stuff? I drank Carnation (choked it down, really!), but I didn't become fat or get diabetes. I didn't drink it daily, or continue having it for the next 20 years, and maybe that's the difference.

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    1. Anonymous1:25 am

      That is the difference. The kids now sit in the house, text, play on the internet, talking on the phone and playing video games. I see nothing wrong with giving this drink to a child just to get their morning started. Just not every day. My son has to be at the bus stop at 5:40 in the morning, so getting him to have breakfast that early is impossible. I make him smoothies some mornings, but he does always want them either. He not overweight. He's very healthy. The reason for kids being overweight is because they aren't active and they are allowed to eat what ever they want.

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  9. Anonymous2:48 pm

    The bottle contains 39 grams, the bottle of no-sugar added has 12 grams (from lactose).

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  10. Anonymous3:01 pm

    Thanks for the your well-worded blog posts Dr. Freedhoff. I have recently (in the last 2 years) become very interested in nutrition and read a lot of blogs and research articles. What is fascinating/horrifying to me is all the "Frankenfood" that is marketed as a good addition "in moderation" to a healthy diet. Why on earth would anybody, let along growing children, need food that didn't even exist 50 years ago? Even in moderation? It seems like so many people drank the marketing Kool-Aid and now can't even decipher between REAL food and processed garbage. While obesity is obviously a big problem, it is not the only problem. There are many, many people who eat or feed their kids this garbage and because they aren't fat assume they are healthy. Food is not just fuel, it affects every cell in our body and damage is being done even if the person is not gaining weight. I see so many teens and 20-somethings with thin, lifeless hair, dark circles under their eyes, bad skin and depression, anxiety, etc. What happened to glowing, happy, energetic young people? They were raised on crap food and now are not thriving, at least not in the way young people used to thrive. Our bodies need real, wholesome food that takes time to prepare...or else the cycle of disease and obesity will continue.

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  11. And cereal is pretty much just as bad!!

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  12. Carnation Instant Breakfast has been around for far longer than 20 years (I was drinking it occasionally 30 years ago) - actually for closer to 50 years (it was introduced in the 1960s). Yes, people 50 years ago would have identified it as food. In fact, people 50 years ago ate all kinds of processed crap that we look down our noses at now.

    Like the anonymous poster above, I had trouble stomaching substantial meals early in the morning as a teenager, but I had to walk/bike to school and sometimes spent two additional hours being active (marching band practice and gym class) before lunch time.

    The idea that it's better for children to skip breakfast rather than have something sweet? I'm really struggling with that one. I mean, really? Would you say that if we were talking about children in the third world, or is it okay if children are food insecure as long as they're ours? I don't know if you agree with Ellen Satter's "Hierarchy of Food Needs" but 'enough food' is at the base and 'acceptable food' is next.

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    1. I agree. It is so easy for others to just poo-poo the idea that someone would ever give their child something that provided proteins, vitamins and minerals, carbs, and a good taste, as well. I am a person who weighed over 367 pounds, had a gastric bypass in August 2010, has lost over 180 pounds, and I drink one Carnation Breakfast Essentials No Sugar Added powder with skim milk and a scoop of dry skim milk for extra protein. It has become a part of my very routine, but effective, diet.
      I am also a cellular and molecular biologist, teacher of anatomy and physiology and biology, and a mother of two beautiful girls. When my oldest started her journey through puberty, there were many mornings she couldn't eat for having an upset stomach. She would drink her instant breakfast, and that would stay down. She didn't feel famished during her mornings at school. Also, she is just shy of 16, 5'7", and weighs 112-117 pounds. She still drinks it from time to time, which is fine. She is healthy and happy—two things all parents wish for their children.
      I have a problem with the cookie-cutter approach we are taking when it comes to diet and health and exercise, etc. What may be fantastic for you could be dangerous for me. I don't like that so many out there will chastise people for doing something that they don't approve of, despite not knowing someone's individual story. Also, it is NOT a lie when we say it costs more to eat only healthy-by-today's-standards foods. Another point, we will probably have brand new information disputing today's diets in a few years or so. You never know. Basically, it has been (and always will be) moderation being the key to a healthy life. Moderation in diet, exercise, sleep, etc. Also, if I have the choice of my child (or me) not eating anything or drinking the breakfast, I will always choose the instant breakfast.

      Sorry so long, but I just had to say something, as I'm sure everyone here felt they needed to say their thoughts, too.

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  13. Anonymous10:23 am

    We are not talking about food insecurity, but abundance. Yes, in a case of abundance, making wise choices is incredibly important. When children are only presented with healthy options they might skip breakfast a few mornings but will eventually realize that their stomach growls and will choose the healthy food. Children in countries with food insecurity are a perfect example - do they sit around waiting for sugary foods or do they eat what is offered because they are hungry? Many children in our country are malnourished AND overweight, their bodies are starving for nutrient dense food and we are offering pop tarts and chocolate milk as an option. And then we wonder why we have so many sick children.

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    1. Pop tarts and chocolate milk ARE nutrient dense. Calories are the most basic nutrient.

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    2. Anonymous4:55 pm

      Calories are not nutrients. Raw sugar, for example, is very high in calories but its calories come almost entirely from carbohydrates and a trace amount of minerals. The refined stuff is even worse. When a large percentage of the calories in something come from sugar that item is not nutrient-dense. Pop tarts and chocolate milk aren't doing any good to anyone.

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    3. nutrient /nu·tri·ent/ (noo´tre-int)
      1. nourishing; providing nutrition.
      2. a food or other substance that provides -->energy<-- or building material for the survival and growth of a living organism.


      I think you mean "micronutrients."

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  14. To all the people who say this is better than nothing....if the desire is for a liquid breakfast, there are plenty of more nutritious options out there. This morning, I made myself a smoothie with unsweetened chocolate almond milk, frozen raspberries, fat-free greek yogourt and a wee splash of honey (maybe 2 t). It was delicious, full of fibre and vitamins, had almost no sugar, and was a great start to the day. You could take it to the 'next level' and add greens, flax, chia, etc., but as something that was made with few ingredients, it was fabulous. I'd say that there ARE alternatives to the instant breakfast....they don't have to be so processed, and they also don't have to be complicated. Also, if kids aren't ready to eat first thing in the morning, why not give them something to eat on the way to school, or at school (a muffin, or a little mini omelet, or egg sandwich). Just because someone doesn't want to sit at the table and eat first thing in the morning doesn't mean they need to resort to this kind of sugary garbage.

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    1. I'm sorry, but that is really an unintentionally hilarious post. "Unsweetened chocolate almond milk?" What kind of bizarre processed stuff is that? 30 years ago, people wouldn't have recognized it as food. You could buy Carnation Instant breakfast back then, but you certainly couldn't buy unsweetened chocolate almond milk.

      I really have trouble picturing a single mom who works 60 hour weeks making muffins, omlettes, or egg sandwiches on a weekday morning, and any kid with early morning activities isn't going to wake up in time to make that sort of thing for themselves (if they know how) and then clean up the mess. You may not be aware that in a lot of areas, cooking breakfast requires immediate cleanup - unless you want to attract mice and roaches - and not everyone owns a dishwasher.

      I actually do make and eat the kind of breakfasts you describe now, as an adult without children. However, there's no way my mom could have managed it when I was growing up, and I wasn't at all interested in dietary puritanism back then. I suspect that there are many, many families in the same situation now.

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    2. Anonymous5:08 pm

      Actually almond milk is just raw almonds and water blended very well (the chocolate kind has cocoa added). It's not bizarre or heavily processed.

      You know, this whole argument that people don't have time to cook because they work is just absurd. I work and I have four kids. And we don't have a lunch program at the local school so my kids brown bag every day. It really doesn't take much time to make simple, healthy food. Egg sandwiches can be made ahead and frozen. Hard boiled eggs stay fresh in the fridge for over a week. Slap some nut butter on bread and chop up an apple and that's a great breakfast. Like the poster above I also make smoothies the night before for my kids - milk, frozen blueberries, banana, spinach and carrots. It tastes like fruit and they chug it down.

      For lunch - turkey/cheese roll ups, an apple and a jug of hormone-free milk. Dinner of course takes more prep but I do a lot of crockpot meals (whole chickens cooked with veggies; stews; soups) or make a big batch of spicy chicken on Sunday and reuse the meat all week for tacos and to put on salads.

      Meals don't have to be exotic or expensive to be healthy. They just can't come from a box.

      You have to make eating unprocessed food a priority, because, yes, it's a lot "easier" to pop a tray of heat up enchiladas with chemicals, sugar and additives in the microwave and nuke it for 10 minutes. But the price people pay for eating that way for a lifetime does not seem worth it. And we teach our kids that meal preparation should be a low priority...and therefore our health.

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  15. The fact that chocolate almond milk is expensive and trendy doesn't make it unprocessed.

    You don't need to preach at me. I probably eat pretty much the same way you do. However, there's a difference between us. I'm not self righteous about it. I do not think it's reasonable to expect a single parent working very long hours who can barely afford to feed his or her children to cook the way I do. I'm guessing that you've never lived as part of a poor, single parent family. I have.

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    1. Anonymous1:39 pm

      I was a single parent of 4 kids. We were borderline poor. As a single parent, I did cook whole foods, including breakfast. It's not that hard, especially if you don't coddle your kids and have them help with the prep and clean up.

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  16. Anonymous8:19 am

    Wow, I'm not preaching to you. You don't have to go on the defensive. And I don't ven drink chocolate almond milk or feed it to my kids - I was just pointing out hat it's not processed.

    Sure, being poor and single does make it harder to feed a family healthy foods. But that.was not what we were talking about. This comment thread has people saying they were picky eaters or couldn't stomach solid food in the am or not having time to make breakfast - and my responses and others were in reference to that. You made fun of the choc almond milk lady for suggesting it as an alternative to chemically flavored chocolate milk for people who have trouble with solid food.

    So lets stay on topic and then this doesn't have to be offensive to anyone.

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  17. Anonymous1:07 am

    It is alway so shocking to me that people are starving literally to death all over this world and in the USA all we can do is argue about feeding our kids "right". I grew up on processed foods and am never sick. Use common sense. One carnation breakfast drink isn't the devil and isn't poisoning our kids. P.s. my husband is a pediateician and he recommends this and ensure all the time to his patients. Carbs and sugars are necessary for the mylonization of nerons in the brains of young children. Sugar isn't the devil and neither are carbs. Some kids survive on one bowl of rice a day. Your body breaks all foods down into usable sugars anyway.

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  18. Anonymous10:12 pm

    I as a single mom of three kids appreciate Dee Calarco's understanding of whit is to make breakfast for my kids every morning. I actually stumbled upon this because I just bought a variety pack of the powdered carnation instant breakfast for myself because I never eat breakfast because I am so busy every morning! On my days off I cook hot breakfast for my kids, but otherwise, they get yogurt, cereal, or...as much as I hate to admit it, any leftover food from the night before that's in the fridge they want to eat (pizza, chicken, etc) I don't like the ides of my kids just drinking anything for breakfast I do want them to consume solid food, but I just think some of you guys are taking this way too seriously...when I was a kid, I ate the most sugary crap almost every morning, and I'm not overweight, I don't have diabetes, or any other serious ailment. I was just a kid growing up in the 80's/90's eating junk food. I know I cannot be alone in this.

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  19. They must have tweaked their ingredients a bit since this post was written. Carnation Breakfast Essentials now has 18 grams of sugar which equals 3.6 teaspoons.

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    1. Anonymous11:33 am

      I just read the packet I have on hand and it is 19 grams of sugar.

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    2. Anonymous8:24 am

      My packet I had this morning said 19 grams as well.

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  20. Anonymous11:58 am

    What do you expect us to eat then? We don't all have a stay at home mom who has time to make a breakfast for us school goers every morning. Also I lost over 15 pounds by drinking one of these and a nut bar every morning. Plus exercise every day, but the point is drinking these isn't going to make you kid fat unless he lives a fat lifestyle.

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