Is Eating Cereal Like Eating A Twinkie?

Happy Monday.

It’s time to check how much sugar is added to your and your kids’ cereal. The Environmental Working Group recently published a report disclosing the amount of suga’ added to our breakfast staple. They reported that Kellog’s Honey Smacks, Post’s Golden Crisp and General Mills’ Wheaties Fuel are made up of close to 60% sugar by weight and have about 20 grams of sugar in a 1 cup serving.  What’s 20 grams, you say? That’s roughly about  about 5 teaspoons of sugar. And this is before adding the milk. While these results are based on 1 cup, I don’t know many who eat only 1 cup with the super- sized bottomless bowls out there.

While Honey Smacks and Golden Crisp seem like obvious offenders, you must always be on the lookout for more subtle violaters. Doing my own research I found Kellog’s Raisin Bran, often misperceived as a “healthy cereal” due  to its high fiber content, also has 20 gm of sugar per serving. You can blame the sugar coated raisins for that.

Allow me to demonstrate how much 20 gm, or 5 teaspoons, of sugar is. Well, it’s the same amount of sugar in:



5 sugar packets

OR 1 Twinkie, 6 oz Coke, 1/2 cup Ben & Jerrys Vanilla ice cream.

The report found 44 other cereals, including Captain Crunch, Apple Jacks, Honey Nut Cheerios and Fruit Loops to have at least 3 teaspoons, or 12-15 gm of sugar per 1 cup serving. That’s the same amount of added sugar as eating 1 glazed Dunkin Donut or 3 Chips Ahoy Cookies. Yikes!

Battling The Cereal Aisle:
1. Read the label. Ignore the claims on the front of the box. Disregard prior notions of perceived “heathy” brands. Ingredients are listed in order of % weight, so look for lists with whole grain as first ingredient. Avoid those with sugar, corn syrup, cane juice as the first 2 or 3 ingredients. The same goes with blindly trusting brands. For example, generally I’m a Kashi supporter, but some of their cereals (Go Lean Crunch) has 12 gm of sugar, so never skip the opportunity to label read.
2. Control the sweetener. Buy unsweetened version and add your own sweetener – fresh fruit, dried fruit or nuts preferably, but 1/2 teaspoon maple syrup, honey, cinnamon, chocolate syrup or even sugar are are all better than buying pre-sweetened. Better that you control it. A perfect example, buy corn flakes (instead of frosted flakes) and sweeten it yourself, or buy plain bran flakes and let your kids make their own raisin bran by throwing  in raisins (non-sugar coated).
3. Use smaller bowls. Bigger isn’t always better.
4. Milk choices. Use fat free or 1% milk, especially if you are battling high sugar cereals.
5. Mix it up. If your kids (or you) refuse to give up Honey Nut cheerios or Captain Crunch, then compromise. Start with half  the bowl filled with plain cheerios and the other half with honey nut, and slowly make the bowel 75%–>100% lighter choice.
6. Fiber. Look for cereals with at least 3 gm of fiber (even more is better) to help you feeling full. While fiber is great, sugar is not, so you keep that in check when reading labels. Many high sugar cereals (Fruit Loops) are coming out with whole grain, higher fiber choices. While it’s a step in the right direction the excessive sugar still makes it a no-go.
7. Avoid artificial colors. While it may entice kids, seeing my milk turn bright pink or blue just doesn’t seem right or natural.

Some healthier choices: Original Cheerios, Multigrain Cheerios, Quaker Oatmeal Squares, Rice krispies, Kix, Chex, Life, Shredded Wheat,  Kashi Heart to Heart Honey Toasted oats, Nature’s Path/EnviroKidz brand,  Barabara’s Bakery brand.

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