If you’re around my age, you may remember when almost every commercial for cereal ended with the tagline: Part of this nutritious breakfast! Or, Part of this balanced breakfast! The “balanced” breakfast shown was always a bowl of cereal, two pieces of toast (because the cereal alone didn’t provide enough processed grain), a glass of milk and a glass of juice – usually orange juice.
Here are a couple of collections of old cereal ads I found on YouTube. The first is from the 1970s, the second from the 1980s:
Boy, cereal had some great flavors back in the day: chocolate, sugar, honey, cinnamon toast, more sugar, marshmallows, rocky road ice cream, even more sugar, and chocolate chip cookies. Trust me, Kellogg’s and General Mills had no problem convincing us to eat those “balanced” breakfasts. I think we may be looking at part of the reason rates of obesity began to take off around 1980.
Just for grins, I took clips from the videos above and stitched them into a little summary of my own:
Let’s look at the nutrition breakdown of that “balanced” breakfast the cereal manufacturers were promoting back then. Officially, a serving of cereal is cup or a half-cup, depending on the brand, but if you look at the commercials, those cereal bowls hold more like two cups – and I didn’t know any kids who ate just one cup of cereal for breakfast. They were called cereal bowls for a reason.
So I’ll go with two cups of Frosted Flakes, 2% milk (which is what we drank when I was an adolescent), Parkay Margarine (which was mostly trans fat back then) and Minute Maid orange juice from concentrate, the kind your mom mixed with water. Here’s what we get:
Frosted Flakes (2 cups)
Protein: 2.7 g
Carbs: 75 g
Sugar: 32 g
Fat: 2 g
2% Milk (2 cups)
Protein: 16 g
Carbs: 23 g
Sugar 23 g
Fat: 10 g
Toast (2 slices)
Protein: 4 g
Carbs: 28 g
Sugar: 4 g
Fat: 2 g
Parkay Margarine (2 tbs)
Fat: 14 g
Minute Maid Orange Juice (8 oz)
Carbs: 27 g
Sugar: 24 g
Okay, let’s add up that nutritious breakfast:
Protein: 22.7 g
Carbs: 153 g
Sugar: 83 g
Fat: 28 g
As a percent of calories, it works out to about 65% carbohydrate, 10% protein and 25% fat. Hey, I’ll be darned if those aren’t the proportions recommended by the USDA! No wonder people in my generation are so remarkably lean and free of diabetes.
I believe (or hope, anyway) that most parents these days know that cereals full of chocolate and marshmallows aren’t health food. But I’d bet many of them still believe a glass of orange juice is part of a nutritious breakfast.
Take a look at the sugar content in that glass of orange juice listed above. It’s a Coke with a bit of vitamin C. Now take a look at part of the abstract from a study in which investigators included orange juice with breakfast for one of the study groups, but not the other.
On 2 separate days, healthy normal-weight adolescents (n = 7) and adults (n = 10) consumed the same breakfast with either orange juice or drinking water and sat at rest for 3 h after breakfast. The meal paired with orange juice was 882 kJ (210 kcal) higher than the meal paired with drinking water. Both meals contained the same amount of fat (12 g). For both age groups, both meals resulted in a net positive energy balance 150 min after breakfast. Resting fat oxidation 150 min after breakfast was significantly lower after breakfast with orange juice, however. The results suggest that, independent of a state of energy excess, when individuals have a caloric beverage instead of drinking water with a meal, they are less likely to oxidize the amount of fat consumed in the meal before their next meal.
If you’re not oxidizing fat, you’re storing it. That’s why we never include orange juice (or apple juice, or grape juice, or any other fruit juice) in the nutritious breakfasts we serve at home – much less cereal and toast.