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The real cereal killers: don’t be fooled by the sweet talk


The real cereal killers: don’t be fooled by the sweet talk

Sugar baths masquerading as breakfast? No thanks

Andrea Burgener

You think you have an inkling of the sort of devilry being cooked up in the cauldrons of industrial food giants.  And then you wander into the baby formula and cereal aisle of the supermarket, and realise that you don’t have a clue. 
It’s been a while since I was in that particular aisle. Though I wasn’t a big Purity fan when my children were small (through no virtue, sadly, but simply because I thought the savoury versions had unnerving tastes and textures), I’ve always had a perverse craving for the dinky guava and pear purees, and every now and then I must give in.
Have you tried these little jars of sweetness? They’re amazing! Not as food for a baby, you understand (way too large a serving of sugar), but as a grown-up dessert; they have the very fine smoothness and the strange disembodied flavours which only industrial food technologists and molecular-type chefs know how to create.     
Anyway, once I’m in that aisle, I look at everything. And once again, I cast my eye over the baby and toddler cereals. The world is very weird. The first one I look at is Purity Regular baby cereal with milk. And 36g of sugar to every 100g of cereal! Yes, it’s not a typo. This is almost as much as Coco Pops! (Although I think Coco Pops is on a sugar lowering drive now.)
But wait, that’s just the regular flavour. The banana and yoghurt flavour is 38.7g per 100g. Is that actually possible? This pabulum of refined carbs and sugar is legally sold as actual nutrition for babies and toddlers?
Nestle’s Nido toddler milk seems positively virtuous at 33.3g per 100g. If it’s legal to sell these foods to babies (recommended from seven months and up), then our country’s nutritional policies are even more surreal than the misguided hounding we saw in the Tim Noakes trial might have led us to think.
In fact, these numbers on baby products make me think about that trial a lot. Noakes (who was, of course, found not guilty as his diet is based on good science) was charged with “giving unconventional advice” in relation to a baby’s diet. Well, if the cereals for sale to this country’s babies constitute conventional feeding – as well they must, they’re absolutely everywhere, and the Health Professions Council of SA doesn’t seem to  have any issue with them – then I’d say anything which opposes this convention must be something worth heeding.  
Some old-school dietitian will assure you that without grains our diet is not complete, but honestly, are we going to believe that a processed food in which refined wheat and sugar make up the largest portion of the product could be a good idea for a very young human? Wow.
• Coco Pop fury. You can’t please all of the people – even some of the time. 
• If you happen to be considering Paelo and have an infant or young child, then read Michael Kummer. 
• Lastly, some some tips around the alternative from The Noakes Foundation.

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