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What's So Bad About Ice Cream For Breakfast?

One morning last week, after getting my kids on the school bus, I returned to my computer and posted this quick note to Twitter and Facebook:

just when you think you've seen everything, a 3rd grader shows up at the bus stop eating an ice cream cone for breakfast

Before I go on, let me first say that ice cream is one of my favorite foods in the whole world; I like all kinds, with all sorts of toppings, and I have been known to find reasons to partake in this yummy treat multiple times within a single summer day. And yet, the idea of children eating ice cream cones for breakfast struck me as wrong, and it wasn't just because I was jealous. Was it the fact that I'd recently met with the Minneapolis Public Schools Food Service Department and given them a hard time about serving sugar cereal in our schools? Was it a fear that the "breakfast is the most important meal of the day" message had gotten out of hand? Or was it, simply, the fact that something didn't quite feel right about the situation?

The Twitter response was exactly what I'd imagined it would be. One friend wrote:

you're kidding!!!? An ice-cream cone for breakfast? I thought seeing a 4 y/o eating out of a bag of chips was bad...

Everyone would agree with me that ice cream for breakfast was a bad idea, right? Wrong. One of my Facebook friends asked:

Hmmm...how is that different from milk and cereal, except in format?

Well, last time I checked, milk wasn't loaded with sugar, corn syrup, and other additives. And cereal wasn't dipped in chocolate. And doesn't the "format" of our food matter too, especially when we feed it to our kids? Are milk and cereal really no different than ice cream cones? Should some foods -- like treats -- be off limits for breakfast?

My head was still reeling when another friend weighed in:

Oh Lee, you've just got to expand your mind ; ). What about cake for breakfast? You could totally see my kids eating that for breakfast, but they also will choose sparkling water over soda, tell me no to treats because they want fruit. It's all about balance and I learned a long time ago, if treats are treated like the enemy, they seem all the more appetizing.

Agreed. But for breakfast? Still another friend wrote:

compare your yogurt and your ice cream label...or your granola and your cone ingredients (or sugar content)! It's all a numbers game my friend

Suddenly, it was I -- the guy who doesn't think ice cream makes a good breakfast -- who was the crazy one. I just needed to open my mind, read cereal labels, and play "a numbers game." I'm so narrow minded!

The Most Important Meal of the Day, Even if It's Ice Cream?

Is it possible that we've taken this "breakfast is the most important meal of the day" thinking too far? Surely some kids are better off skipping breakfast entirely than eating ice cream cones washed down with soda, aren't they?

Parents, doctors, teachers, nutritionists, readers, eaters, Democrats, Republicans, Independents -- what do you think?

Please weigh in before tomorrow morning -- my childrens' breakfast hangs in the balance.

 

Lee Zukor is the founder of Simple, Good, and Tasty. E-mail him at lee@simplegoodandtasty.com or follow him on Twitter.

Comments

As an adult without children the first glib remark that came to mind was, "Why not, I'm getting my dairy, right?" But in truth I, too, rebel at the idea of ice cream for breakfast on a regular basis for anyone, especially for kids. That being said maybe from time to time, birthday, or some other special day, then sure. Balance it out the next day or later in the day but an indulgence here and there won't hurt.

I'm with you, Lee. Ice cream should not be eaten for breakfast! Breakfast should include foods that are going to give you energy to start the day, not a sugar crash. Some of the comments about reading labels are true, some of the yogurt and cereals out there are just as bad as ice cream. So eat some eggs, or steel cut oats with sauteed cinnamon apples (which you can make the night before and just heat up in the morning). It's really not that hard to eat a nutritious breakfast.

Well, I don't often let my kid eat ice cream with high fructose corn syrup (read: conventional ice cream) at any time of the day, so she wouldn't be having it for breakfast either! A scoop of Pumphouse Creamery ice cream, made with organic cream, real fruit, organic eggs, not overly pumped with sugar? That'd be a little different. Left to her own devices, my daughter - all of two - would be delighted to have ice cream for breakfast every day. I think perhaps on occasion it would be alright, sometimes we do have pie or cake for breakfast (namely, on birthdays), after all. But then again, she's not having sugary cereal for breakfast either!

I regularly ate ice cream for breakfast (straight out of the carton with a fork) when I was in high school and my parents were too exhausted with other battles to fight the breakfast one with me. And I struggled with my weight and self image for years. Go figure.

I agree with the readers who says it's a numbers game. I bet there's plenty of ice creams like Pumphouse or Sonny's, that would be more healthful than a conventional corn syrup-y, additive filled "granola" bar, yogurt treat or fruit treat.

It's the perception that's harmful. Breakfast is the first meal of the day. Ideally it should be a substantive, even warm one. Most adults "get" that having dessert for breakfast occasionally wouldn't hurt us. but having a kid at the bus stop with that is akin to waving a red flag at the other kids.

Maybe it was the kid's birthday? Offer that option to kids if they insist. But otherwise, as a former ice cream for breakfast person, I wish someone had taught me earlier the benefits of a better breakfast and to save ice cream for later in the day.

My kids and husband will sometimes have ice cream on a waffle for breakfast. My husband points out that it's no more sugar than maple syrup, and at least you get the calcium and vitamins from the milk and cream. Of course it's organic ice cream without all the yukky stuff. And they put peanut butter on the waffle too for some protein!

There is a very big difference between ice cream and maple syrup -- REAL maple syrup that is. There are a lot of health benefits with REAL maple syrup, mainly that it contains trace minerals such as manganese and zinc. read more right here:

http://www.puremapleproducts.com/health_benefits_maple_syrup.html

But if you're talking about the popular, cheap brands of maple-flavored corn syrup that everyone (blasphemously) calls "maple syrup," then yes, I agree, nutritionally, it is no better than ice cream. However, the portion size for a drizzle of syrup (the real thing or the crappy fake stuff) is significantly smaller than a scoop of ice cream.

Scientists Highlight Benefits of Maple Syrup
http://topnews.us/content/213963-scientists-highlight-health-benefits-pu...

"...Many of these anti-oxidant compounds that have been discovered in maple syrup, reportedly contain anti-cancer, anti-bacterial and anti-diabetic properties as well."

Thanks all, for your thoughts (and links, Debbie!). I'm with you -- I'm usually a pretty pragmatic, everything-in-moderation kind of guy, but as a parent the things we allow and don't -- even when and why we allow them -- are shaping our kids' views on food, health, and related habits.

When a child shows up at the bus stop eating an ice cream cone, other kids will either think it's strange or they'll think it's cool -- they're not going to compare nutritional value against their own breakfast. What kind of message are we trying to send?

I guess the question we have to ask ourselves is this: why are we feeding our kids breakfast cereals that have the nutrition content of a box of Sugar Pops (or whatever your favorite morning "poison" is...)? We don't (generally speaking) eat cereal for breakfast at our house; it's an occasional (and/or holiday) treat. Ice cream and sugared cereal, IMO, should be a very rare phenomenon at breakfast time.

To answer Anonymous' question, "why are we feeding our kids breakfast cereals that have the nutrition content of a box of Sugar Pops" I think a lot has to do with some fairly ingrained marketing. I'm 36 years old and was raised by two intelligent parents who worked full time. We always ate dinner together and with the rare exception of getting TV dinners when there was a babysitter or ordering pizza, it was a home cooked meal. However, mornings were busy times in our household and once we were old enough to dress ourselves, breakfast consisted of getting a box of cereal off the shelf. Back then people just didn't read nutrition labels like many do today and the food companies marketed their products focusing on all the vitamins, etc that was in there, not the sugar that was also in there. I think it takes a lot of effort to convince yourself that the "truth" of cereal being packed with good stuff and of course there is the convenience issue as well. Kudos to parents who have the motivation and time to find other options that work for their morning schedules.

I say go for it. Not on a regular basis of course..and not chocolate(so won't stain clothes for school:}
Somedays an ice cream cone might be just what the dr. ordered...well... And whose to say the kid did not have eggs and for dinner:]

Hooray! Finally my own mom weighs in - thanks mom (Hope)! The only thing that threw me was the note about staining clothes. :-)

I think we're all in agreement that ice cream for breakfast -- as a treat. rather than an everyday occurence -- may not be such a bad thing. I'll let you know if the little girl at the bus stop brings another cone today.

 

Buddy Max Sparper is a vegetarian. He has "breakfast curry," which I always thought sounded like a delicious to start to the day—even with dates, raisins and ... tumeric! http://bit.ly/4qPw3C

You couldn't do better than that.

I think what bothers me about so many of these choices for breakfast is the lack of balance between sugar and protein. Protein will keep the child going until lunch time, while sugar without balance will lead to a high--frequently followed by a crash.

One of my children was more sensitive to the effects of sugar, and the "crash" one feels after having sugary foods was quite apparent in her. I tried to make sure that she had foods in the morning that included complex carbohydrates.

We never added sugar to cereal (I remember looking in shock as my mother sugared her Chex cereal--she had done that all the time I was growing up, but I had apparently forgotten it after so many years of not sugaring cereal). We used low-fat milk. One of the girls' favorite combinations was Cheerios and Grape Nuts, but I would also sneak in some peanut butter toast on the way to the bus stop or to walk to school. We also liked to add cashews to the Grape Nuts, or to oatmeal.

Maybe this child at your bus stop was being rewarded for something, or maybe it was her birthday, but I would think it would be much more appropriate and appreciated, actually, at a better time of day, after school or after dinner. I guess I would not judge her parents--unless I started seeing her with this breakfast daily, or even frequently. Was her parent aware of this breakfast? I wondered if she had created her own breakfast. Oh, well, if I saw it regularly and did not know if her parents were at home, I might even make a point of asking them if they knew about this.

Thanks Grammie, for your story and the excellent points you make. Turns out that yesterday a different child was eating jelly beans at the bus stop, but since I know and respect her parents, I was somehow able to refrain from judgment. Or maybe it was because I've been letting my kids eat 1-2 of their Halloween candies each day and I don't want to be hypocritical.

Your point about protein is a great one too. It's hard to convince my kids to eat an egg before they leave for school in the morning, but there are all sorts of ways to favor protein rather than carbs.

Thanks again,
Lee

I remember seeing a neighbor (at the time) who is a pediatrician allowing her son to eat M&M's at the coffee shop for breakfast. I just shuddered and hoped it didn't happen often.

Plain or pretzel M & M's?....

I don't know, but she was embarrassed. I think they were plain.

Hope at least it was dark chocolate ....;]

I came across you post right after my 4 year old asked me for some ice cream at 9:30am. My response to her was "Are you crazy, not for breakfast"! Then I googled eating ice cream for breakfast. Now I do agree that every once in a while is ok. But alowing your child to take it to the bus stop? We were running late this morning and my 7 year old took a fruit2day drink to the bus stop. You know the ones with fruit chunks in it. So much better for a child and in my opinion so much easier than making an ice cream cone!

thanks for sharing, that's a great story! if your kids are like mine, they'll ask again tomorrow. :-)

The problem of "once you've done it..." is a real one. There was a snack bar at my kids' pre-school day care (YWCA) and I knew they sometimes needed a lift. However, with a three-year-old if you allow a snack once, you have then got the request (demand) for a snack EVERY DAY for months. We had to make whatever rule and stick to it. Since that was the time of day with the second-lowest blood-sugar, I allowed a snack, but I bought it beforehand. I kept a supply of those crackers with peanut butter or cheese in my desk at work so that I could grab two before getting the girls. A snack every day before getting on the bus to go home, making the run for the bus, the trip home, and the arrival home (to Daddy cooking dinner) that much easier. My initial "parent" said "no snacks before dinner" but as I looked at it (see above analysis) that was actually not fair to them or to me--or to Daddy. I did not need a snack, but life was much easier for all of us if they got a snack, and there were good reasons to do it.
We all need to keep challenging our responses, as when twelve years later a daughter was asking for a dog, a cat, a ferret... We already had a bigger dog, her sister was allergic to cats, and I didn't want a ferret at all. The little dog we got her that year is still with us 14 years later, and I am grateful to her for having helped my daughter get through a major depression, giving her a reason to live and to get up in the morning. Now that dog is helping me through cancer. I am grateful that I stopped and asked myself, "Why is the answer no? What if the answer is yes? Is there something that this request speaks to that I am not seeing?" It is amazing how the consideration of small questions like "ice cream for breakfast" can lead to life changes later.

ice cream is no worse in nutrition if you buy a light version of ice cream like ed's slow turned than normal other breakfasts

ice cream 1 cup
6 grams of protein
7 grams of fat, 0 trans
30 grams of carbs 11 grams of sugar
200 cals

one cup life cereal and 1/2 cup of milk
6.9 grams of fat
38 grams of carbs 15 grams of sugar
6.9 grams of protein
237 cals

Yoplait Original Peach with QUAKER Granola with Almonds, 0.5 cup
11 grams of protien
11 grams of fat
71 grams of carbs 38 grams of sugar
437 cals

two pieces whole wheat toast one egg and oj, Brummel & Brown butter made w/ yogurt 1 tbsp
14 grams of fat
57 grams of carbs 22 grams of sugar
13 grams of protein
400 cals

well, i ges im 'bout tew suga shock all of u....b/c i plan on servg ice cream brkfsts @ my nu ice cream parlr....but i will def take n2 k'sidrayshun d n'trishnl valu..... =) (btw...did u evr c d ice cream brkfst elvis hd????)

That last comment by "Anonymous" is the best comment I've ever read on any blog in my life. I read it four times.

On a side note, this is a fascinating discussion. It has really gotten me to think ... is the breakfast that I serve my children any more nutritious than an ice cream cone? We don't eat cereal much around our house, but I'm starting to doubt that cereal and milk is a very nutritious meal. Thanks Lee!

I just hope my kids never read this or oatmeal or scrambled eggs and toast or porridge with raisins and walnuts is going to make them feel like they've been getting really ripped off. 

How bout you stop buying shitty ice cream that has additives. If your ice cream has more than 8 ingredients, its not ice cream. Thanks

GEEZZZZZZZZZZZZ SO WHAT ONCE IN A WHILE. IT'S THE GASTAPO MENTALITY I BET THE KID WITH THE ICE CREAM CONE HAD A SIMPLY FUN, HAPPY, THANK YOU MOMMY OR DADDY DAY AND SMILED ALLLLLLLLLLL DAY! IT'S NOT BAD ONCE IN A WHILE EVERY ONE NEEDS TO FLIPPIN CHILL LAX. WHAT IF YOUR THE GRANDPARENT AND YOU HAVENT BEEN TO THE STORE BECAUSE YOU ARE IN TOO MUCH PAIN AND THE MOMMY OR DADDY DROPS HIM/HER OFF WITHOUT MUCH NOTICE? OH YEAH A REMINDER I CAN'T GO TO THE STORE WAS THE FIRST THING I SAID. THE 30 SOMETHINGS WITH THEIR DIETS AND FAD CRAP HAVE TO GROW UP! FEEL FREE TO EMAIL ME. IF THEY THINK I KNOW MORE THAN THEY DO, GUESS WHAT I DO. WELL ADJUSTED AND HAPPY IS BETTER THAN A BARK FROM A DAD! SHAME ON YOU.

I totally agree with ice cream for breakfast that's because I'm a teen but when I asked my mom for the first time in my teens if I could have ice cream for breakfast on my birthday she said "yes"
So on June 15th I can look forward to ice cream for breakfast !!!!!!

Wow, it is amazing reading all these different points of view, the ones that are legible anyway.

I just had a couple of spoonfulls of ice cream for breakfast after the eggs and whole wheat toast and I gotta say....I feel icky- this is from a 23 year old. Couldn't imagine what a child will feel like after a whole cone. Maybe they have a better reaction, or they just choose to ignore the side effects? Even still, I am an avid protestor of sugary goodies for breakfast....for my self or my future child(ren).

I was recently told my cholesterol was high, i was in totally shock because I do not eat fried or greasy foods. Then my doctor asked me do I eat ice cream, I said yes, she said how much. I put my head down and said every day. She just looked at me. I then read that one ice-cream cone has more saturated fat then one hamburger, I may eat a hamburger once or twice a month, but that ice cream, was a different story. Well I have decided more healthy snacks instead of ice-cream. My health is important and so is my life. Have teach our children to eat healthy when they are young

Just a thought- my daughter has blood sugar problems and has been given "worse" things than icecream to balance a low morning and make sure she doesn't crash at school. Or maybe a birthday treat? I'd do that for my kid (but very secretly at home to about weird looks!) In general - icecream for breakfast is insane and setting kids up for nutritional failure. :)

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