One day last week, I watched early morning TV to see what the weather would be like that day, like I do, because I still trust the local weather forecast over my iPhone. Right before a commercial break, what I saw made me jump out of bed: Kraft decided to promote their packaged macaroni and cheese product for BREAKFAST.
If someone had told me they had found Biggie and Tupac sipping Alize together on a tiny Caribbean island, I would have believed it before this.
I thought, well, considering COVID-19 has basically canceled 2020, this might as well happen. I’ve witnessed many a travesty when it comes to the first meal of the day – kids eating potato chips and Kool-Aid for breakfast – but this makes my heart hurt, literally. Yeah, I know Kraft Mac & Cheese is practically an American tradition. One millions of people grew up on. That explains a lot about our poor health numbers. But it’s time to say something to the common man.
Why Is This a Problem?
Kraft Macaroni & Cheese is horrible food to eat at any time of day for anyone. Please don’t give this to the babies first thing in the morning!
The instructions for classic preparation of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese involves adding four tablespoons of margarine, that famous cheese mix powder and ¼ cup of 2% milk and yields the following nutrients per serving:
- 350 calories
- 13 grams of fat
- 4.5 grams of saturated fat
- 720 mg of sodium
- 2 grams of dietary fiber
- 7 grams of sugar
- 10 grams of protein
Let me break this down in one sentence: It’s almost as bad as taking one of little Jimmy’s Legos, half-filling it with table salt, sprinkling some ants on it and shoving it down his throat. Just the fact that they recommend using margarine is a problem. If you haven’t read my blog on margarine, check it out.
There are so many issues I have with this campaign from a food science perspective, I’d be writing for the next year non-stop if I tried to break it down to you. So I’ll only talk about two things here.
The Big Fat Problem
The amount of fat in a Kraft Mac & Cheese breakfast is dangerous in a few ways. First, according to the American Heart Association, adults should limit their daily saturated fat intake to 13 grams, so 4.5 grams for a kid is high. Second, the packaged food does not identify the trans-fat from the margarine here. That’s bad news all by itself.
The Huge Salt Issue
The other danger here is the amount of sodium. Again the AHA’s guidelines say that the average adult should have no more than 1500-2300mg of sodium a day. So in one fell swoop, we give a kid ½ their daily limit of sodium.
The Power To Do Better
Let’s not kid ourselves here, people. We can do much better. A dozen eggs cost about $1.75 on average which comes to about 14 cents per egg, bananas are about 58 cents a pound, navel oranges are about $1.20 a pound, a loaf of whole wheat bread is about $1.50, and milk runs about $3.50 a gallon.
A traditional breakfast of an egg, a slice of toast, a piece of fruit, and a glass of milk costs, on average, about 99 cents per serving. A box of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese costs 98 cents by itself. Not only does the investment in ingredients for a traditional breakfast makes more sense financially, but it also makes more sense nutritionally. The nutritional stats from breakfast like that look like this:
- 364 calories
- 12.9 g fat
- 2.9 g saturated fat
- 369 mg sodium
- 6.3 g dietary fiber
- 27 g sugar
- 18.1 g protein
With the breakfast suggestion above, all the right essential nutrients are higher, and the bad ones are lower, leaving you with a more nourished kid who’s ready to face the day.