Have you ever played that game where you have to list the 1 food you would most want if you were ever stranded on a desert island?

Well, for me, it would be bread.  I love it.  For me, bread truly is manna from heaven. My daughter loves bread too.

But even though bread has been a staple food throughout history, most of us eat way too much of it. (I just finished a bagel as I type this!)  Our kids eat way too much bread too.

If you are having trouble selling your kids on fruits and vegetables, evaluate how much bread they eat.

I know it doesn’t seem like bread is related to broccoli, but it is:

  • Bread is hard to beat.  It has a satisfyingly chewy consistency when fresh, and a delectable crunch when toasted.  It’s bland and unchallenging, and appeals to most pint-sized palates.  But bread couldn’t be more different than fruits and vegetables in terms of taste, texture, appearance, aroma… the aspect of food that matters most to kids.  Since kids are most comfortable eating the same kinds of foods they’re used to, over-exposing your kids to bread is a recipe for disaster: it produces bread-lovers who end up eating less of everything else.
  • Bread is extremely filling.  Give your kids bread during a meal and they can easily forgo the other stuff you really want them to eat.

Bread’s got a good publicist: it’s part of the most popular club in the Food Pyramid (the grains) and it’s endowed with an aura of health.

But bread isn’t all it’s cracked up to be – especially if it’s not made from whole grains.

Even though the Food Pyramid makes us think our kids gotta get their grains – grains do get the biggest share of the Pyramid after all —  kids don’t need as much as you think.

If you use up your kid’s grain allotment with bread, there isn’t a lot left for other grains, like rice or pasta.

The USDA recommends kids 2-3 year olds consume approximately 3 ounces of grains per day.   That’s not a lot.  The typical bagel now weighs in at 4 ounces.

Three ounces of grains amounts to:

  • 2 slices of bread and a handful of crackers.  Or
  • 1 pancake, ½ cup of cooked pasta and ½ an English muffin. Or
  • 1 small box of Goldfish crackers and 1 slice of bread.

If your kids eat half a bagel for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch and pasta or rice for dinner, they’ve had more than their fair share.  Throw in some snack time crackers and some popcorn and they’re on grain overload. Forget about adding in pizza, muffins, or even a granola bar.

From a nutrition perspective, most bread isn’t what it’s cracked up to be.  Most of today’s bread is a mass of refined flour baked up with sugar and salt.

  • Most bread gets a NuVal score in the 20-30 range. (Remember, NuVal scores the nutritional value of foods from 1-100 with 100 being top nutrition.)  Sure there are breads that score higher, but are those the ones your kids eat?  Probably not.  Most of our kids are more likely to eat Wonder Cinnamon Raison Bread, which scores 8, than they are to eat Arnold Flax and Fiber Bread which scores a 48. NuVal bread scores.
  • Bread is one of the top sources of sodium in the American diet.  Not because it is so much saltier than other processed foods, but because we eat so much more of it.  For instance, one slice of Arnold Whole Wheat bread has 170 mg of sodium.  That translates into 11% of an adult’s daily sodium intake and 17% of a toddler’s intake. Pita bread can be even saltier.  One Damascus Bakeries whole wheat pita has 290mg  — 29% of your toddler’s recommended intake.

So much of what your kids will eat is a function of what they already eat.  It’s really a matter of math.

I know it sounds like circular logic to say that you have to get your kids used to the kinds of foods you want them to eat before they’ll eat those foods the way you want them to, but that’s what you’ve got to do.

Use your children’s tendency to want to eat what they’re used to eating to your advantage.

Assess how often your kids eat bread (and bread-like products such as crackers, pizza, quesadillas) compared to fruits and veggies.  Then tip the balance in your favor by reversing the ratio.

Teaching kids to eat foods in the right proportion is the biggest part of getting them to eat right.  Start getting the ratios right by helping your kids develop the proper bread habit.

~ Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits. ~


Source: www.mypyramid.gov/pyramid/grains_amount.aspx accessed 5/20/10; www.nuval.com accessed 5/20/10; Marsh, B. 2010. “Stealth Salt in the Pantry.” New York Times. April 24