Some Breakfast Cereals Marketed to Children Are More Than 50% Sugar

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The November issue of Consumer Reports finds some breakfast cereals marketed heavily to children are more than 50% sugar by weight, and only four of the 27 cereals studied rated “very good.”


Consumer Reports found two cereals, Post Golden Crisp and Kellogg’s Honey Smacks, are more than 50% sugar; nine others are at least 40% sugar, and 23 of the top 27 marketed to children rated only “good” or “fair” for nutrition. There’s at least as much sugar in one serving of Kellogg’s Honey Smacks and 10 other rated cereals as found in a Dunkin’ Donuts glazed doughnut (12 g).

The article also notes several cereals sold in the United States have more sugar and sodium than the same brands sold overseas. For example, Honey Smacks sold in Germany, Slovenia and Switzerland are composed of about 40% sugar, compared with 55% sugar in the U.S. product.

Cheerios (General Mills) topped Consumer Reports’ ratings, with 3 g dietary fiber per serving and only 1 g sugar. Kix and Honey Nut Cheerios (both General Mills) and Life (Quaker Oats) were also relatively lower in sugar and had higher dietary fiber. All four were rated “very good.”

Sodium is also an issue. For example, Kellogg’s Rice Krispies has only 4 g sugar per serving, but it rated only “fair,” largely because it is higher in sodium and has 0 g dietary fiber. The lowest-rated cereals were Kellogg’s Honey Smacks, with 15 g sugar and 1 g dietary fiber per serving, and Kellogg’s Corn Pops, with 12 g sugar and 0 g dietary fiber per serving.

“Be sure to read the product labels, and choose cereals that are high in fiber and low in sugar and sodium,” says Gayle Williams, deputy editor of Consumer Reports Health. “Served with milk and fruit, these cereals can be part of a well-balanced, nutritious breakfast.”

While the ratings are based on product label information concerning nutrition and recommended serving size, many children pour more cereal than the portion size manufacturers suggest. When 91 youngsters, ages 6 to 16, poured their cereal, researchers found they served themselves on average about 50%–65% more than the suggested serving size for three of the four tested cereals. For example, if kids ate the entire average amount of Frosted Flakes they poured, they would consume about 18 g sugar per serving, as opposed to the 11 g per serving listed on the cereal box.

Consumers International, a London-based international federation of consumer groups, is calling on the World Health Organization to develop international guidelines that would restrict advertising and marketing of foods high in sugar, fat or sodium to children.

So, what can you do at home?

Remember: Kids (and adults) who eat breakfast have better overall nutrition, fewer weight problems and better cognitive performance throughout the day, Consumer Reports notes. Cereals are convenient and can be a good source of whole grains. Served with milk and fruit, the lower-sugar varieties can be part of a well-balanced, nutritious breakfast. Use smaller bowls to limit overpouring and overeating.

Of course, here at OrganicAuthority, we recommend switching to a high-fiber, low-sugar and low-sodium organic cereal. 

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