Happy National Cereal Day (March 7th)

Heart of cornflakes on blackboard

(PCM) March 7th is National Cereal Day! So what’s the scoop – did you have a bowl of cereal for breakfast this morning? Nearly half of all Americans start their day this way. If not you, have a gander at the person next to you. What do you think – is he a frosty flake or a grape nut? I’m a granola gal myself.

Cereal and milk may seem as American as apple pie, but it wasn’t always that way. Breakfast cereal as we know it has only been around since the late nineteenth century. In a time when the typical morning meal consisted of meat, meat, eggs, coffee, maybe some booze, and meat, cereal was first promoted as a food to cleanse both body and soul. The original cereal was full of fiber – rock-hard, tasteless fiber. Healthy, but not especially appetizing.

For better or worse, we owe our modern variety of sugary, shaped, and flavored cereals to men like John and Will Kellogg (who figured out how to turn grains into light and appetizing flakes) and the advertising gurus of the 1940s who began to market their products directly to children.

While colorful characters and digging for plastic treasure at the bottom of the box may appeal to young appetites, they don’t necessarily correlate with healthy eating. Many breakfast cereals – especially those aimed at kids – are loaded with sugars, dyes and additives that outbalance whatever benefit they offer from whole grains, minerals and vitamins.

But boring and bad for you don’t have to be mutually exclusive. With a little label-reading and shelf-searching, savvy shoppers can find reasonably healthy options in fun shapes and flavors.

Then again, a big ol’ rainbow-colored bowl of Captain Whosit can be an oasis of nostalgia, reminding us what summer vacation tasted like, or Saturday morning cartoons. Sometimes a spoonful of colored marshmallows is just the charm you need – and that’s okay, too. Make it a special occasion – like today. Happy National Cereal Day!

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