Since when did sugar cereals become back-to-school essentials?

Photo courtesy Andrea Miller-Mitchell

Ask Kellogg Canada and Loblaw how they came up with this

It’s back to school time and a time to get into healthy routines. So why do we see promotions such as this current one offered by Real Canadian Superstore, a division of Loblaw Canada, and Kellogg Canada? Spend $200 and you get a “Back to School Essential” pack free. It’s great to know that as you’re rushing around this week getting your kids ready for school, your hard earned bucks are going to reward you with the “Back to School Essential” package. Since when, though, did sugary and salt-laden products such as “Frosted Flakes”, “Fruit Loops, “Rice Krispie Squares” and “Pringles” potato chips become essential? At a time when food costs are climbing and many families are struggling to put healthy food on the table, why not at least offer a majority of tasty nutrient-rich products in such a promotion? Maybe include maybe just one sugary option, if at all? Is anyone really going to turn down this free package?

There’s no doubt that our kids need rescuing. It’s been said many times that this generation of kids won’t outlive their parents. Diabetes and high blood pressure are no longer ailments of adulthood alone. They’re now striking at younger and younger ages due to unhealthy food choices with an excess of calories, sugar and sodium combined with a lack of physical activity. It’s clear that youngsters today have been growing up in a toxic food environment.

But when that environment changes, kids can surprise you with their choices. In a study, published in the journal, Pediatrics, researchers looked at the impact of kids’ nutritional ratings when offered either low versus high sugar cereals along with milk and fresh fruit. While the subjects in both groups reported “liking” or “loving” the cereal they chose, those in the high-sugar cereal group ate almost twice cereal as much as those in the low-sugar group. The children in the low-sugar group were more likely to put fruit on their cereal, boosting their nutrition even further.

Today’s parents need help too – something our federal government recognizes as they now look at legislation that would restrict marketing of unhealthy food and beverages to children. The food industry is fighting back and claims they are on board with helping families make healthy choices. They’re against legislation as they state that voluntary measures will be adequate.

But are they really on board? This promotion certainly doesn’t provide much evidence of healthy eating initiatives. Is the company saying they don’t make healthy products kids like? Why, at a time when families are trying to establish healthy habits for a new school year while spending big bucks for back-to-school supplies, would these food products be offered for free?

In 2016, Senator Greene Raine introduced Bill S-228, the Child Health Protection Act, in the Senate. Its aim is to protect children’s health by prohibiting the marketing of unhealthy food and beverages to children and was modeled after Quebec’s Consumer Protection Act where ads directed at children are banned. A University of British Columbia study found that, as a result of the Quebec ban, French-speaking children ate less fast food and weighed less than the national average. English-speaking youngsters were more likely to see out-of-province programming with ads aimed at them.

Parents are the gatekeepers to what young children eat but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for treats. Day to day healthy eating habits, though, are learned through parental guidance – which can be a very tough task nowadays. Those of us with children have all likely experienced the hard-fought battles at the supermarket over food products with less than healthy nutritional profiles. We’ve also all likely witnessed a crying child whose parent has said no. But when you’ve finished your boxes of these sugar-laden cereals, as a result of this promotion, the next shopping trip will likely be even more stressful if you try to opt for lower-sugar whole grain options.

It’s time for the food industry to step up to help our kids achieve a healthy future. Kellogg Canada and Loblaw, surely you can do your part.

What are your thoughts on this promotion? Please share in the comment section below.

Thank you to Andrea Miller-Mitchell for giving me the heads up on this promotion.

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Categories: Children's Health, Rosie's Rants

Author:Rosie Schwartz

Rosie Schwartz is a Toronto-based consulting dietitian and writer.

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2 Comments on “Since when did sugar cereals become back-to-school essentials?”

  1. Jennifer
    August 30, 2018 at 5:08 pm #

    I totally agree, terrible choices and wording in calling it essentials.
    So many more nutritional and practical items could have been included. Oatmeal, raisins, a lunchbox.
    If I were less skeptical I would have said maybe they assumed the $200. was already spent on the good stuff and these were the treats, but it is more likely they want to get people hooked on these sweet and easy products that kids think they want

  2. August 31, 2018 at 11:24 am #

    It’s quite infuriating for these companies to do this at the start of the school year. Since it was a promotion in the Superstore, that $200 could have been spent completely on non-food items. The companies are showing that they’re not buying into voluntary ways to bring healthy foods to the table!

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