As one ACSH staffer has remarked, Dr. Keith Ayoob’s nutrition articles in USA Today are a breath of fresh air. Dr. Ayoob is a dietitian and associate clinical professor of pediatrics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City. In his most recent column, he addresses what has become a common concern among parents: whether the breakfast cereals their children eat contain too much sugar. But this is one thing that a parent needn’t worry about, says Dr. Ayoob, noting that the sugar content of these products has actually decreased significantly over the years. An average serving these days has about 10 grams of sugar — about the same amount you’d find in a packet you sweeten your coffee with. And despite the bad press that kids’ cereals have recently received, such breakfast fare is decidedly not the cause of the obesity epidemic; in fact, it’s a great source of whole grains and a good way to sneak both low-fat milk and fresh fruit into a child’s diet. Many Americans, Dr. Ayoob says, don’t eat nearly enough of these things — yet the kids who do eat cereal on a regular basis tend to have healthier weights and better diets in general.
And there’s no need to run from fast food restaurants either. In an earlier article, Dr. Ayoob argued that the removal of toys from Happy Meals — a misguided policy that was implemented earlier this year in San Francisco in order to “fight obesity” — won’t actually have much of an effect on weight loss. As he points out, today’s Happy Meals pack fewer calories than they once did, and children consume them as a treat — not on a daily basis. Furthermore, since most children who are after the Happy Meal toy are too young to purchase these meals themselves, it’s really the parents who should be held responsible — not the fast food industry.
We applaud Dr. Ayoob’s much-needed and coherent perspective on nutrition. It is science-based and contradicts the sensationalized anti-sugar, anti-fast food, and anti-salt stories that have, unfortunately, come to constitute too much of the nutrition “information” being fed to worried parents by numerous media outlets.