Report: Children’s cereals pack a sugary punch

In this Dec. 8, 2009 photo, Kellogg\'s Froot Loops are seen on display at Costco in Mountain View, Calif. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)

WASHINGTON — One bowl of cereal a day could add up to 10 pounds of sugar your child is eating a year, according to a new study of more than 1,500 cereals including many marketed to children.

The Environmental Working Group, which seeks to protect human health and the environment, released its report Thursday.

“There has been some progress reducing sugar in children’s cereals over the past three years, but the overwhelming majority of children’s cereals are still too high in sugar,” the report says.

The average children’s cereal contains almost as much sugar per serving as three Chips Ahoy! cookies or two Keebler Fudge Stripe cookies, according to the report.

Portion size also plays a role. Box labels list nutrients based on a serving size that is smaller than what a typical child or adult actually eat, meaning they consume even more sugar than what is labeled.

Cereal-makers also highlight the nutritional benefits, such as vitamins and fiber, to distract consumers, according to the report.

“Eleven of the 13 most heavily sugared children’s cereals feature marketing claims like ‘Good Source of Fiber’ that suggest misleadingly that the products are healthful,” the report says.

The study compared cereals by their total sugar content by weight and compared those results against federal guidelines.

In general, grits had the least amount of sugar by weight, followed by oatmeal (not instant), and granola.

Worst Offenders

  • Kellogg’s Honey Smacks
  • Malt-O-Meal Golden Puffs
  • Post Golden Crisp
  • Kellogg’s Apple Jacks with marshmellows
  • Kellogg’s Froot Loops with marshmallows
  • Food Lion Sugar Frosted Wheat Puffs
  • Safeway Kitchens Silly Circles
  • Food Club Honey Puffed Wheat
  • Safeway Kitchens Apple Orbits

Offerings with the least sugar

  • Kellogg’s Rice Krispies both regular and gluten free
  • General Mills Cheerios
  • Post 123 Sesame Street, C is for Cereal
  • Kellogg’s Corn Flakes
  • Kellogg’s Crispix Cereal

Choosy Parents

To avoid the sugary pitfalls of the cereal aisle, parents should read nuitrition labels carefully. Look for cereals with no more than 4 grams of sugar per serving or for moderately sweet options with no more than 6 grams of sugar per serving.

The Environmental Working Group report recommends that parents look for cereals with no added sugar like glucose or high fructose corn syrup. Fruit juice, honey and molasses are other common additives.

Make a fresh breakfast at home with hot oatmeal, walnuts and fruit or make a smoothie with soy milk, bananas and berries. Scrambled eggs with veggies is another healthy option.

Choose foods made from whole grains or that are high in fiber and low in sodium.

See the list of sugary children’s cereal analyzed in the report here.

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