Love Story

Monday, August 20, 2012

How I weaned my kids off of breakfast cereal

There is nothing terribly wrong with breakfast cereal. This isn't a post to bash Kellogg's or General Mills {because you KNOW they are ready my blog, ha!} or to take some stand against those who love cereal or feed it to their kids. Instead I wanted to share some changes we have decided to make in our home and show you how we did it in case it's something you've thought about doing as well.

When I first became a stay at home mom I intended to make breakfast on a regular basis. I don't particularly love cereal myself and prefer something with more variety but quickly found that my kids did not share that same preference. So I bought cereal because it was cheap and quick and easy and mostly because the kids would actually eat it. And while we originally kept to the healthier options found in the cereal aisle, slowly the sugary brightly-colored boxes began to fill our pantry shelves. And while it is still easy and what the kids prefer, it isn't what I want them putting in their bodies. It isn't how I want them fueling themselves for the day. So I decided to make a change. One that I anticipated would not be popular at first but one that I was determined to have happen and to make as easy a transition as possible.

I started by replacing their traditional cereal with something that would still be similar. That would still be in a bowl, require a spoon, have milk poured over it. And I got them involved. They came with me to the bulk bins at our local store and I helped me pick out nuts, seeds, granola, dried fruits. I explained why we were making the switch and why these better choices were going to help their bodies and brains work better. The next day I let them build their own cereal with some of these choices and it gave them some ownership as well as something to get excited about.
pepitas, sunflower seeds, quinoa, dried cranberries, granola, bananas, strawberries, raspberries, walnuts and almonds
Let me tell you, this worked better than I ever could have imagined. They LOVED getting to make their own creations, spent breakfast talking about their healthy choices and coming up with names for their cereal and even made the suggestion that we throw out any of the sugary cereal still in our cupboards. I truly think including them in the process and explaining the why behind these changes made all the difference. It wasn't just mean mommy taking something away. And I know that they are being armed with information that will help them to make better choices on their own one day.

The great thing about these toppings is that they are super versatile and can be traded out for whatever suits your fancy. And because we took advantage of bulk bins (allows us to buy the quantity we want and less cost since their is no packaging to pay for), we didn't break the budget buying them. We used them throughout the week to top steel cut oatmeal from the crock pot, yogurt, salads and they were delicious inside of homemade granola bars.

I also will be mixing in other breakfast items they are likely to embrace. Like oatmeal cookies...not the store bought dessert ones but the homemade healthy breakfast ones that still make them feel like they are getting cookies for breakfast which is enough to get them on board. We also made lots of muffins loaded with fruits and veggies. So far they have really loved the Carrot Quinoa muffins.

I haven't done this yet but I also have an idea for trying out some of the foods my kids have had a tougher time embracing in the past. Like eggs. My kids don't totally despise eggs but they are never thrilled when they show up at breakfast. So in the near future I am going to do something fun with this and let them experiment with different types of eggs to see if there is a version they do like. We will have an "egg week" complete with a chart on the fridge that says Would I Eat Them? along with several preparation variations and a spot for them to put a smiley face or frown face depending on what they thought after trying them. Some ideas include hard-boiled eggs, scrambled eggs, omelets, fried eggs, and egg cups. (I'll let you know how this goes over when I do it!)

I want to mention also that we didn't totally ban cereal from the cupboards. Just as much as I want them to learn to fuel their bodies properly and desire healthier food options, I also want them to learn moderation. Knowing that cereal isn't something they will forever be deprived of helps it not be such a big deal. They still have one of their favorite cereals that they can indulge in every few weeks and this past week we went to Trader Joe's and they got to sample a Puffed Wheat cereal that's only ingredients are puffed wheat and organic agave syrup. It tastes great and they actually begged me for it after trying it so we have a box of that for those busier days.
All in all this has been a pretty seamless transition {my pickiest eater has whined a few mornings about not being able to have that bright red box of cereal he loves...but for him whining at meal time is as second nature as breathing so we have come to expect it} and I am glad that we have been able to make the switch. We are overhauling some of our other habits as well so be on the look out for future posts about that. And feel free to share some of your favorite healthy breakfast menus...we are open to new, yummy things to add into our rotation!

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