As adults, we know how important a high-fiber, high-nutrition diet is for our children’s health. When we were younger, it was sugar that determined which breakfast cereal we would beg our parents to choose at the grocery store. Of course the power of marketing was often on our side as high-sugar “frosted” cereals were often pitched as great sources of fiber, vitamins and nutrients. Our parents didn’t have access to the same knowledge we have today. They meant well, but all too often we would score Frosted Flakes and Lucky Charms as our “power food” to propel us through the long day at school.
In reality, those magically, bright colored cereals are one of the worst things we can feed our kids. In fact, a 2012 study by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, which specifically focused on the health effects of foods containing certain color dyes, found that these color dyes and large amounts of sugar may actually contribute to symptoms of hyperactivity in children with ADHD. The study indicated there was enough compelling evidence gathered from twenty-four publications, and an additional ten independent trials to warrant further investigation by the FDA and other regulatory bodies.
This is alarming news because recent studies are finding a sharp rise in reported symptoms and diagnosis of ADHD, and researchers are still uncertain of the cause. In December 2015, George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health released a report finding an average 43% rise in ADHD cases in children aged 5 to 17 over an eight-year period. Researches are now finding links between gluten, the “gluey” protein found in the wheat grain, and ADHD. Children with celiac disease are more likely to suffer from ADHD. Celiac disease is a genetic autoimmune disorder where the small intestine is damaged by even small doses of gluten. The Celiac Disease Foundation estimates that it affects 1% of the world’s population, and that over two and half million American’s are still undiagnosed and face serious long-term health risks.
Breakfast is the number one source of wheat and grains in our children’s diets, and if the high amount of gluten isn’t enough to worry about, those bright, sugary cereals can often contain as much sugar as a small bag of candy. The Environmental Working Group, a non-profit public health and environment watch group conducted a study of a staggering 84 popular breakfast cereal brands, found that in the top offenders has as much sugar in just one cup of cereal as three Chips Ahoy! Cookies. It’s no wonder that our children are being diagnosed with diseases such and diabetes, heart disease and severe obesity at younger ages than ever in modern human history.
There is good news though. All of these diet-related illnesses can easily be prevented, and in some cases reversed with just some simple changes to our children’s diets. First cut out the sugary cereals and replace them with healthy (and also delicious alternatives) such as granola, oatmeal (with honey or raisins instead of syrup), bananas, almonds and mixed berries.
Keep in mind that gluten is found in many food products, even traditionally healthy foods, but you will do your child a world of good by simply cutting out the large quantities of sugars no matter what. If you suspect your child may have a sensitivity to gluten of may suffer from celiac disease, review these common symptoms and remember that a gluten-free diet is easy and pain-free, it just needs our full attention at the grocery store so we know what we are putting into our kid’s mouths.