DIY Cherry Coconut Oat Cereal

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 Pass on the breakfast candy, aka boxed cereal, and make this quick and easy DIY cereal. Packed with dried cherries, coconut and almonds, you won't need the sugar!

Happy Tuesday! I hope you had a lovely weekend. Mine was spent in Atlanta for Pure Barre in the Park, an awesome event put on by Pure Barre Virginia Highlands. I was so excited to be there along with Press Together Juice and the lovely ladies of Atlanta Activewear, although it was pure torture being next to their tent after promising my husband I wouldn't spend money on clothes! When the business is up and running, there is a pink sports bra with my name on it! Most of all, as a new business owner, it was such an inspiration to be surrounded by bright, passionate women who've made a similar leap of faith and have been rewarded with success!

After spending the morning chatting with mostly 20-30-something women, there was one sentiment I heard expressed over and over again - kids food is horrible. So many mothers had made a concerted effort to clean up their diet, only to feel entirely underwhelmed by the lack of healthy, kid-friendly options.

It seems the rule of thumb for creating kids food is "just add sugar." It reminded me of an analysis of sugar in kids cereal by the Environmental Working Group released a few weeks ago, appropriately described by Mark Bittman on twitter as "awful yet predictable." They found children's cereal contains a whopping 40% more sugar than adult cereals, which are pretty heavily sweetened as it is. In fact, excluding sweets, like sodas and candy, cereal is the greatest source of added sugar in the diet of children younger than eight. A serving of an average children's cereal has as much sugar as three chips ahoy cookies!

What irks me the most isn't the sugar content, but how cereal is marketed as a healthy breakfast option. Labels claiming "made with whole grain, "smart choice" and "high fiber" decorate the package, distracting consumers from the brightly colored, marshmallow studded substance inside.

I wish I could tell my clients and friends with children there are plenty of minimally processed, kid friendly foods available at any old supermarket that don't cost an arm and a leg, but unfortunately, these options are few and far between.

What I can do however, is solve the breakfast debacle. Breakfast cereal is one of the easiest foods to DIY. No, homemade cereal won't come in cool shapes or have a color scheme reminiscent of a box of crayolas, but it will also lack the copious amounts of sugar and additives. Even better, it's a project kids can do entirely on their own. They'll be more likely to eat it if they are the ones making it, and you're lessening the workload in the kitchen. It's a win-win situation.

This recipe is endlessly adaptable, and really shouldn't even be called a recipe but rather a bunch of ingredients thrown together. I used oats as a base, but if you like more of a crunch and likeness to boxed cereal, substitute half the oats for an unsweetened, whole grain cereal, like bran flakes or puffed quinoa. For the dried fruit, do make sure you purchase unsweetened dried fruit, as dried fruit is already concentrated in natural sugar. Enjoy this mix with almond milk and a drizzle of honey or pure maple syrup, or use it to make my muesli with DIY yogurt.

DIY Cherry Coconut Oat Cereal
Author: Rachael Hartley, RD, LD, CDE
Serves: Makes ~ 8 cups
Ingredients
  • 4 cups rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup wheat germ
  • 1/2 cup oat bran
  • 1 cup raw almonds
  • 1 cup raw cashews
  • 1 1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 1 cup unsweetened dried cherries
  • Unsweetened almond milk, coconut milk or organic whole/2% milk for serving
  • Honey, for serving
Instructions
  1. Place oats, wheat germ, oat bran, almonds, cashews, coconut and dried cherries in a large container with a lid. Secure the lid and shake until combined. Store in a cabinet until ready to eat. Serve with almond milk and a drizzle of honey.