For example, Shu suggests diluting a super-sweet cereal with a less-sugary option, or flavoring a plain cereal with fruit, yogurt, or a sprinkle of sugar. The Rudd Center conducted a study showing that kids served the single option of a low-sugar cereal ate the appropriate serving and sweetened the meal with fruit and a little sugar. Conversely, children served high-sugar cereals ate more cereal and less fruit.
Of course, cereal is not the only option on the proverbial table. For breakfast, and all meals, Shu advises serving up a mix of protein, carbohydrates, and fat—elements that metabolize at different rates—to provide a steady stream of energy. Eggs, lean meat, peanut butter, and tofu supply protein, while whole grains are a good source of carbohydrates; fats can come from dairy, she says.
"Kids can get vitamins and minerals from other foods," says Shiriki Kumanyika, associate dean for health promotion and disease prevention at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and Rudd Center advisor. "They don't need to have the cereal as the vitamin pill." However, breakfast presents a powerful opportunity to remedy one's diet, she explains. "It is an identifiable target for change where you could make some inroads," and "it's a good example of how companies, if they change both their products and their advertising, could really help to take a piece of the child's diet and make it better."