Pop-Tarts Nation: Misery is Optional

Pop-Tarts Nation: Misery is Optional

While walking through my local supermarket this weekend, I strolled by the Pop-Tarts aisle to see what was happening in this section. Over the years, I’ve made fun of Pop-Tarts, not only because of their total lack of nutritional value, but because of the important place they have taken on the breakfast tables across America since 1964. So many individuals, especially parents, in an effort to get their kids up out of bed, hair combed, and dressed for school or other morning activities in a timely fashion, slap down a Pop-Tart, as a quick and easy breakfast. This requires absolutely minimal thought or planning for this activity. For many, it is mission accomplished; Little Johnny and Mary have had breakfast, and are scooted out the door.

What parents should be saying to themselves, as well as anyone else who’s eating a Pop-Tarts, is basically that they’ve eaten a sugar-filled breakfast, with effectively no nutritional value, setting these kids up (and yourself) for hunger soon afterwards, and further bad eating habits for rest of the day, and possibly rest of their lives.

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and sadly, Pop-Tarts are doing nothing to help this along. With the ever-growing problem of childhood obesity, we have to stop for a minute and take stock of what we’re feeding kids for breakfast. This has been a passion of mine for over 20 years.

What struck me during this stroll down the Pop-Tarts aisle was a rather eye-catching advertisement that was out in plain sight. It caught my attention, and I photographed it here. Essentially, the message is that a combination of a Pop-Tarts with a glass of fat free milk is the perfect way to start a breakfast off, and none of us should feel guilty feeding our kids such a crappy meal. This is marketing 101 at its finest. Any parent or consumer walking down the aisle, looking at this sign, is granted a license to buy Pop-Tarts, and serve them to their kids and family. This subliminal message tells you, “hey it’s OK to feed little Johnny and Mary Pop-Tarts”. Adding a little bit of milk makes whatever reservations you have about Pop-Tarts vanish.

Unfortunately, falling into this advertising trap does nothing for us as individuals, or collectively as an obese nation. I swung back through the fresh produce section and saw no such advertisement helping to steer consumers to buy fresh fruits and vegetables, eggs, or other unprocessed forms of proteins to be served at breakfast table across America. It just isn’t any fun to eat a scrambled egg, a small bowl of fresh blueberries, with a quarter of an avocado. A small cup of unsweetened yogurt would also be an excellent addition to this power breakfast for your 10-year-old.

So before everyone e-mails me back saying that I am out of line, please take personal stock of how much time and effort you invest personally in crafting meals for yourselves and your families. Cooking real food, which is unprocessed, and thus nutritious for you, takes time. Time to plan the meals, shop, and cook them. And yes, cooking fresh meals at home is messy. In all of my years of practicing medicine, it is far messier and a pain in the butt to suffer the consequences of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.

You make the choice. Pop-Tarts in the morning, or hemodialysis? Misery is optional.

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