Cereal Girl

Although my wonderful parents undoubtedly hoped fun family outings and visions of sugarplums would dominate my childhood memories, I’d wager at least 40% of my youthful remembrances are about none other than cereal.

And I’m not talking about the podcast.

Yes, you heard me right. That crunchy, processed, sweet breakfast staple of the 80s and 90s was a huge part of my childhood, and it’s present in an alarming number of memories from my formative years:

  • I remember Mom traveling out of town and Dad conspiratorially scooping a giant ball of mint chocolate chip atop my Frosted Flakes.
  • I remember whipping up a batch of peanut butter-Cheerio bars between Full House and Family Matters for our TGIF snack.
  • I remember realizing my then 14-year-old sister was a bona fide adult when she stopped eating Crunch Berries and started requesting the very grown up Raisin Nut Bran as her breakfast of choice.

I mean, my brother and I literally played a cereal-themed computer game called Chex Quest for years that we got in a cereal box in 1996. Let’s all process that for a second.

In my family, weekends were for waffles, but every Monday through Friday, the cereal boxes made their way to the breakfast table en masse. We’d read the backs of them, we’d jostle for the toys inside, and then we’d head off to school, only to do it all over again the next morning. And so it continued for years and years, but then something crazy happened: cereal stopped being my breakfast of choice.

I don’t know what ultimately did it — maybe it was my newfound understanding of protein and fiber, maybe it was the fact I’d moved to the city of bagels, maybe it was that cheesy eggs seemed a better cure for the hangovers of my early 20s — but somewhere along the way, I stopped eating cereal.

And it turns out, I’m not alone. With the rise of low-carb diets, eating on the go and America’s fascination with Greek yogurt, good old milk & cereal has had a tough go in recent years. I realize my instagram isn’t scientific, but I definitely see more pictures of chia seed pudding and eggs Benedict than I do bowls of Raisin Bran, and I bet you a box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch that you do, too.

That said, I think cereal can still have a place in an adult diet, even for an adult like me trying to limit the intake of processed foods. In fact, one of the best recipes in my repertoire sports breakfast cereal as one of its main ingredients. The recipe, inspired by the other great Anne blogger on the internet, is always a crowd pleaser, and if you’re looking to get some Kelloggs back into your diet, here’s a delicious way:

Cornflake-Crusted Chicken Fingers

1 package chicken breast or, if you’re super lazy/brilliant, already sliced chicken tenders
1-2 eggs
1 T hot sauce or dijon mustard
2 cups cornflakes, crushed
a mix of your favorite spices to taste (I usually do garlic salt, paprika and black pepper – 1/4-1/2 teaspoon)


  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. In a shallow bowl, add your spices to your crushed cornflakes.
  3. In a different bowl, crack your egg(s), and stir in with a fork either the mustard or hot sauce to give it some flavor.
  4. Once your chicken is tender sized, dip each one individually in the egg and then into the corn flakes, coating completely.
  5. Place the coated chicken on a sprayed cookie sheet, then bake about 12-14 minutes or until cooked through.
  6. Enjoy, in this case, with roasted carrots and parsnips.


This recipe can be tweaked in so many ways: when I was on Whole 30, I used flax seed and unsweetened coconut instead of cornflakes; when I was at the new house without any spices, I crushed up a bag of Old Bay potato chips and mixed them into the cornflake mixture for flavor; when I’ve found myself eggless, I’ve used yogurt instead as the pre-cereal base. Either way, it’s an easy, delicious meal, and one I hope will find its way into some of your kitchens as well.

What are you cooking with cereal these days? If your answer is rice crispy treats, please come find me immediately. I want one.


Milk and Cereal

They say the most important meal of the day is breakfast.

I say the most important meal of the day is my office’s 3 p.m. champagne ration, but sure, breakfast is a close second.

(Just kidding. This is from that day we won a Pulitzer. Usually champagne’s at 4.)

I’ve been an advocate of breakfast for as long as I can remember, though it’s taken different forms with each passing decade. As a kid, breakfast meant the five of us squeezed around the kitchen table over Cap’n Crunch and the comics. As a college student, breakfast meant strawberry yogurt, Cracklin’ Oat Bran and the immediate dissipation of hangovers because 21-year-old bodies are resilient like that. When I moved to New York, breakfast meant bacon, egg & cheese sandwiches; homefries; bagels and – surprise surprise – what I like to refer to as the Manhattan 15.

Or the Manhattan 45. Semantics.

It was really only in January 2011 when I started to wise up to my unhealthy ways that I began to give some serious thought to my breakfast composition. I mean, I knew from body-conscious DJ Tanner I was supposed to eat breakfast every day, but I had never really stopped to think about whether a bowl of Fruit Loops was actually cutting it. As I began to learn more about energy, calories and the importance of nutrition, I swapped my kids cereals for what I was sure were more sensible varieties. You know, the brands with important things like fiber and fruits and whole grains and riboflavin. Mmm. Riboflavin.

I ate Special-K. I ate Kashi. I ate Bare Naked granola. I felt like a grown-up!

And then this winter, I decided to look at the nutrition label on my beloved granola.


Adding a box of raisins and a cup of almond milk, and it brought me to a whopping 40 grams of sugar — or 74 percent of my daily intake — before 7 a.m. Eating granola every morning, I felt like a grown-up all right. One about to be diagnosed with diabetes.

With that realization, I decided this year to revamp my breakfast routine. After decades of carb-laden morning meals, I pledged at the ripe age of 29 to find creative ways to work more fruits, vegetables, legumes and protein into my a.m. routine., and I’ve (mostly) so far stuck with it. Don’t get me wrong: It’s not always easy to forgo free cereal at work, and I have been known to backslide into the delicious world of Basic 4 when the mood strikes. But planning ahead and packing my own nutrition-dense breakfast brings so many positives — from feeling fuller all morning long to giving my sore muscles the protein they need to recover — that I’ve mostly been able to justify the added prep work and planning it takes.

I’ve tried several morning combinations with a healthy make-up of protein, carbs and fat, and these are some of my favorites:

  • Half an avocado on whole wheat toast with two hard boiled eggs for 19 grams of protein and just 6 grams of sugar.

    photo 1 (71)
    Paas Easter egg dye optional.
  • A smoothie with peanut butter, banana, cashew milk and baby spinach for 7 grams of fiber, 10 grams of protein and two servings of fruits/veggies before sun-up.
photo 2 (65)
Why cashew milk? Because the full-page ads in Runner’s World clearly worked for me.
  • Chia seed pudding (chia soaked in dark chocolate soy milk) with a sliced pear for 18 grams fiber, 13 grams protein and one delightful day of finding chia seeds hidden in your teeth for hours on end. I ate it before I remembered to take a picture, so here’s a photo of a wheaten terrier — not Keira — I dogsat last weekend instead. You’re welcome.
She prefers dining on duck.
She prefers dining on duck.

Are there still going to be days I choose the buttered bagel or bowl of French Toast Crunch over the healthier options? Absolutely. But if I can swap out my sugar-filled breakfasts for something more wholesome at least three days a week, I know I’m making strides toward health.

And that’s worth toasting with a bloody mary.

What’s your breakfast routine?