The commercial seems innocent – a mom, trying to do the right thing for her family. She’s looking for a healthy breakfast choice, one that her kids will eat. She opens the pantry and pulls out a jar of Nutella, and the family happily sits down to nosh on it. She’s surrounded by smiling faces, all enjoying a breakfast of Nutella spread on whole grain toast. It’s a blissful shot, one that most moms would give their right arm to enjoy. Everyone eating breakfast with no fuss, no complaint, no “I hate that!” within hearing.
Sounds too good to be true? Well, it is. We’ve been ’round this debate before. Despite a lawsuit, the company is still insisting that Nutella is a nutritious breakfast choice. But is it really, or is this just a case of false advertising?
Janine Bolton, RD, has this to say about Nutella for breakfast: “I would not consider Nutella part of a healthy or balanced breakfast for kids. A balanced breakfast is one that features foods from different food groups, so that we get a variety of nutrients. Nutella does not belong to any food group and packs in over 10 grams of sugar per tablespoon. I wouldn’t recommend Nutella for anything other than an occasional treat.”
Elisa Zied, MS, RD, CDN, author of Nutrition At Your Fingertips agrees: “I’d say that despite healthful fats found in hazelnuts, Nutella more closely resembles candy. It packs in lots of added sugar and saturated fat– two things Americans (kids included) over consume and need to cut back on. While I never like to label foods as bad or good, I will say that some foods are more nutritious than others. And foods like Nutella can be included in an otherwise healthful diet, but many of the calories it contains should count as SOFAS (solid fats and added sugars) and should be limited in the diet. ”
Having established that Nutella is not a nutritious breakfast component, now it falls to us to try to determine what would be a great breakfast choice for our children. Experts agree that breakfast is a very important meal for children, helping them to have a strong start for the upcoming day. Breakfast should be filling, and in fact many feel that breakfast should be the biggest meal of the day, as food is fuel. The first meal of the day should contain up to one third of your RDA of fiber, vitamins and protein. Enjoying a carbohydrate rich breakfast gives your brain fuel for the day, so focus on whole grains and fruits.
Zied has some ideas on what would be an optimal breakfast. “A better breakfast might be a cup of whole grain, low sugar cereal like shredded wheat (rich in whole grains and fiber), skim milk, and a small handful of plain, and unsalted (perhaps raw) nuts and some fresh fruit (berries or a banana or some other option).”
Bolton concurs, saying, “For a healthy breakfast, I recommend choosing more natural foods, with less additives such as whole grain toast with natural peanut butter and sliced banana, or a whole grain cereal or oatmeal with yogurt and berries.”
Don’t be deceived by a glamorous commercial. Serving a healthy breakfast isn’t difficult, and reading the labels of the foods you serve can help you make your choices easier.