The not-so-sweet news about children’s cereal

by Monica Watrous    View Me on Google+
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WASHINGTON — Children’s cereal packs an average of 40% more sugar per serving than adult cereals, according to a new analysis from the Environmental Working Group, a research and advocacy organization.

A study of more than 1,500 ready-to-eat cereals, including 181 marketed for children, found that children’s products were especially prone to extreme sweetening, with the average serving containing as much sugar as three Chips Ahoy! cookies. A daily bowl of children’s cereal amounts to 10 lbs of sugar a year, the group said.

“When you exclude obviously sugar-heavy foods like candy, cookies, ice cream, soft and fruit drinks, breakfast cereals are the single greatest source of added sugars in the diets of children under the age of 8,” said Dawn Undurraga, nutritionist and co-author of the organization’s new report, “Children’s cereals: Sugar by the pound.” “Cereals that pack in as much sugar as junk food should not be considered part of a healthy breakfast or diet. Kids already eat two to three times the amount of sugar experts recommend.”

Ninety-two per cent of cereals in the analysis contain added sugar, with some options including as many as six different types of sweeteners, such as sugar mixed with corn syrup, honey, dextrose or high-fructose corn syrup.

The biggest offenders, according to the report, contain 50% or more sugar by weight. They include: Kellogg’s Honey Smacks (56% sugar by weight), Malt-O-Meal Golden Puffs (56%), Food Lion Sugar Frosted Wheat Puffs (56%), Krasdale Fruity Circles (53%), Safeway Kitchens Silly Circles (53%), Post Golden Crisp (52%), Kellogg’s Apple Jacks with Marshmallows (50%), and Food Club Honey Puffed Wheat (50%).

The group reevaluated a sample of 84 popular children’s cereals it had reviewed in 2011 and found the majority still contain an unhealthy amount of sugar, an average of two teaspoons per serving, and one cereal has added even more sugar. None of the 10 most sweetened cereals on the list lowered its sugar content, the report said.

Most of the sugary children’s cereals tout such nutritional attributes as whole grain, fiber, and vitamin and mineral content, leading some parents to believe the products are healthy, the report said.

“Parents read nutrition claims on the side of the cereal box and think they are feeding nutritious food to their kids,” said Renee Sharp, research director for the group. “That’s why the federal government and food manufacturers need to hear from us. We hope the report will empower Americans to use their voices and buying dollars to demand better choices and a limit on how much sugar is added to food products that are marketed as ‘healthy’.”

Only 10 of the 181 children’s cereals met the group’s criteria for low sugar, including Kellogg’s Rice Krispies (3% sugar by weight), General Mills’ Cheerios (4%), Post 123 Sesame Street C is for Cereal (4%), and Kellogg’s Corn Flakes (11%).

To reduce sugar consumption, the Environmental Working Group recommended purchasing cereals with no more than 4 grams of sugar per serving or preparing unsweetened hot cereals and eating fruit or other whole foods with no added sugar.
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