Have you seen the Nutella commercials that they seem to run during any program that could remotely appeal to moms? It’s the commercial that sends the message that Nutella can be part of a healthy, balanced breakfast.
After spending a decade working in advertising, I know better than to believe anything I see on TV. The marketer’s mission is to position their product in the most appealing way to their target audience in order for them to buy it.
While there are restrictions on marketing and advertising to children (that are loose and rarely enforced), there aren’t many laws on the marketing of foods. For example, Kelloggs was in trouble a few years back during the swine flu epidemic for claiming that Rice Krispies would boost your immunity, but can still say that other cereals, full of sugar but with some whole grains, are part of a nutritious breakfast.
Whether we’re talking sugary cereals or Nutella, it’s everything else that makes the breakfast nutritious…not the food with all the marketing dollars behind it. Most cereals targeted to children are no better than a candy bar. The recommended daily allowance of sugar for kids is 12 grams. The recommended serving of Nutella is 21 grams of sugar.
Would you feed your child a candy bar for breakfast?
I wouldn’t. But I treat my kids to chocolate chip pancakes every once in a while, or cinnamon rolls, or what they call apple pie.
What’s the difference?
First, these aren’t part of our daily breakfast and rarely get served on a school day. I let my kids know that they’re having a “once in a while” treat. And it’s balanced as much as possible with whole grains, fruit and protein. I also make most of these from scratch so I know each ingredient, and it’s quality stuff.
What does that look like?
If I were serving pancakes, a cinnamon roll or muffin, I’d balance that out with fresh fruit and some nuts for protein. The Apple Puff that my kids call “pie” includes eggs and apples, and we use wheat flour so it’s pretty complete. I may offer trail mix as a mid-morning snack. The chocolate chips we use are most likely to be broken bits of a dark chocolate bar from Whole Foods or Trader Joes.
Back to Nutella. I read this article about the mom who filed (and won) a lawsuit for their claims that Nutella could be part of a wholesome breakfast and am torn. On one hand I believe that marketers need to be responsible in their efforts and this case (if publicized well) will communicate the truth to moms around the country who have believed this claim and taken up their suggestion.
I know there are kiddos (and some of us mamas) that start their day with a Nutella-slathered bagel. Are there worse things to eat in the morning? Always. Is it better than going to school without anything to eat? Yes. And do we sometimes do whatever it takes to get food into a picky eater’s belly? Oh, yes.
But there are better options. My hope is that this case inspires moms to not place their faith and children’s health in the hands of food manufacturers. We need to be diligent about reading labels, not ads. Our best interest is our children, while the food manufacturers work hard to make a profit. The reality is that if we stop buying junk food they won’t produce it.
I know this puts many of us in a pickle because our child relies on something sweet, like Nutella, to get some breakfast down in the morning. Trust me, my daughter needs an incentive at many meals so I can relate. Here’s a few ideas that might inspire a healthier start to the day:
- Feed them what they like. Find a couple healthy breakfasts they like and figure out how to incorporate them during the week. My daughter loves eggs but it took too much time to make them before school until we got a non-stick (safe) pan. If they like pancakes or waffles, make a big batch on the weekend, freeze them and pop them in the toaster! Try smoothies too.
- Start healthy and add sweetness. If they’ll only eat Nutella-slathered bagels, take some creamy peanut or almond butter and add a tiny bit of chocolate, lessening the chocolate over time. Or mix some cream cheese and preserves to add protein and fruit to their bagel.
- Teach them about “sometimes” foods and “anytime” foods so that they can tell the difference, especially when they’re not with you.
Love Nutella and don’t want to give it up? Can’t say I blame you. I love chocolate + nuts! There’s a ton of recipes out there for homemade Nutella that you can adjust the sugar quantity to make it as sweet, or healthy, as you want. Here’s one that looks like a good base to experiment from.
When sugar is the first ingredient in anything other than a treat, that needs to be a red flag for us that this isn’t a healthy option. The sooner we can help our kids understand that, the better their chances of a healthy life are.