The recent news about sugar consumption with children via breakfast cereal is so alarming that it sounded a wake up call with medical professionals, academics, nutritionists and parents last week.
Imagine putting 10 one-pound bags of sugar in front of your child and then asking them to eat that. They do this annually if you read the average statistics for kids in the USA.
Eating a bowl of kids’ cereal every day would add up to eating 10 pounds of sugar a year, according to a new Environmental Working Group analysis of more than 1,500 cereals, including 181 marketed for children.
Virtually all of the cold cereals contained added sugar, but kids’ cereals contained an average of 40 percent more sugar per “serving” than adult cereals.
Because the “serving” size given on the label does not reflect what Americans actually consume, people who eat sweetened cereal every day can wind up with much higher sugar intakes.
“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 eight,” nutritionist and EWG consultant Dawn Undurraga, co-author of the organization’s new report, Children’s Cereals: Sugar by the Pound, said. “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.”
Researchers used EWG’s comprehensive food database – which is due out this fall – to determine the sugar content in each cereal.
Here are the dirty dozen, EWG’s “Hall of Shame,” that are 50 percent sugar by weight.
- Kellogg’s Honey Smacks
- Malt-O-Meal Golden Puffs
- Mom’s Best Cereals Honey-Ful Wheat
- Malt-O-Meal Berry Colossal Crunch with Marshmallows
- Post Golden Crisp
- Grace Instant Green Banana Porridge
- Blanchard & Blanchard Granola
- Lieber’s Cocoa Frosted Flakes
- Lieber’s Honey Ringee Os
- Food Lion Sugar Frosted Wheat Puffs
- Krasdale Fruity Circles
- Safeway Kitchens Silly Circles
The researchers re-evaluated the 84 popular children’s cereals analyzed in the group’s 2011 report, Sugar in Children’s Cereals, and found that not ONE single cereal on its “worst” list had lowered its sugar content. Not one!
EWG has called on the Food and Drug Administration to update its cereal serving size regulations to reflect current consumption data. Last March, the FDA proposed calling out added sugars and requiring manufacturers to list larger and more realistic serving sizes on the labels of some packaged foods. But the agency left cereal serving sizes untouched, even though its scientists estimate that the average person eats 30 percent more than the serving size given on the boxes of the most common cereals.
Don’t fall for the whole-grain and fiber ruse wording on those cereal boxes!
The EWG report found that most of the sugary children’s cereals say they are whole-grain, fiber, vitamin or mineral content enriched, evidently aiming to persuade parents that these products are worth buying.
“Parents read nutrition claims on the side of the cereal box and think they are feeding nutritious food to their kids,” said Renee Sharp, EWG’s Research Director. “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’.”
Of 181 children’s cereals, only 10 met EWG’s criteria for low sugar: Kellogg’s Rice Krispies, General Mills Cheerios, Post 123 Sesame Street (C is for Cereal) and Kellogg’s Corn Flakes.
Monsters and Critics spoke to the Khalili Center for Bariatric Care’s top board certified bariatric surgeon Dr. Kai Nishi who devotes a good portion of his spare time to educating kids on diet and exercise. You would think a surgeon who makes his living doing gastric bypass and other weight loss surgeries wouldn’t care about this, but the Khalili Center Foundation, staffed with some amazing physicians, aims to educate and empower children to make good decisions so they won’t wind up with chronic disease.
The doctors literally walk that talk with their youth education programs. They go out to Los Angeles Unified School District schools and teach kids how to do jumping jacks, simple exercises and jog, and teach about the importance of good nutrition. They make it fun to learn.
Dr. Nishi says, “The breakfast cereal industry in the US is a huge business, generating around $1 billion in sales annually. Why is it so popular? It’s quick, easy to prepare, and tastes good. Of course, the cereals that taste the best tend to have the most sugar as with many other foods, and therein lies the problem. Millions of children across the country consume breakfast cereal in the morning every day, and with the high sugar content that many of these cereals contain, it’s no wonder why obesity rates among children are skyrocketing. A healthier alternative to this, and something that we at the Khalili Foundation try to teach at the various elementary schools that we visit, is to eat cereals without added sugar. Our four recommendations to parents include Rice Krispies, Cheerios, Corn Flakes, and plain Oatmeal. Just add fresh fruit such as blueberries, strawberries, or bananas as a natural sweetener. It’s tasty, good for your body and a great way to keep our children healthier.”