It’s no surprise that kids’ cereal has about as much nutritional value as the cardboard box it comes in, but a new investigation from Consumer Reports reveals facts about breakfast cereals that even the skeptical might find stunning. In a nutshell, more than one-third of the 27 cereals reviewed had at least as much sugar as a glazed Dunkin Donut.
“Parents who would never give their children doughnuts for breakfast may be choosing these cereals without knowing that from a nutritional standpoint they really aren’t much better,” said Gail Williams of the Consumer Reports Health staff.
In fact, some of the cereals are actually worse than donuts from a sugar point of view. Honey Smacks from Kellogg’s has three more grams of sugar per serving than a donut does; Post’s Golden Crisps has two more grams. Both of these choices are more than 50 percent sugar (15 and 14 grams, respectively), and they offer almost zilch in the way of fiber to compensate.
The report focused on the sugar-aspect of cereals, noting that kids today “consume 15% more added sugars than they did 25 years ago…while during the same time the number of overweight children in the U.S. has doubled.” It also considered sodium, fiber, calories, and nutrients in each cereal. Based on these factors, the cereals got divided into three categories — with 11 in the lowest group, and only four in the highest category including Cheerios, Life, Kix, and Honey Nut Cheerios.
I suppose everything is relative — Cheerios does beat Golden Crisps overall — but the winning cereals in this contest sure don’t measure up to much by any reasonable standards. Cheerios, for instance, contains only one gram of sugar, but it also contains 10 times more sodium than Golden Crisps does — 270 mg versus 25 mg. Cheerios ranks as the best of the top four cereals because of its low sugar content and its three grams of fiber per serving — but before you get wowed, consider that a single apple contains 50% more fiber and a whole lot fewer empty carbs.
Look more closely and it gets really ugly. When you examine the Cheerios ingredient list, you discover that this best among the cereals contains trisodium phosphate, an industrial strength cleaning agent, stain remover, and degreaser. That alone should be enough to make you run to the organic shelf. And although Cheerios gets kudos for using whole oats, it should be noted that those oats aren’t organic. But more notably, Cheerios uses oats sugar and cornstarch derived from genetically modified plants, which means that General Mills can’t sell the cereal in Europe, where GMOs are banned.
But hey, I’m not picking on Cheerios — it still gets high points compared to the sugar-bombs like Cap’n Crunch from Quaker Oats — another on the “worst” list. The point is that even the top-ranked cereal on the “good choices” list is garbage, and the fact that consumers are deluded into thinking it’s a healthy option is worrisome.
Manufacturers say whatever they please to keep the delusion alive. Check this copy from the Cap’n Crunch website: “Cap’n Crunch® is a great-tasting, crunchy sweetened corn and oat cereal your whole family will love. It’s an excellent source of seven essential vitamins and minerals, is low in fat, and contains 0 grams of trans fat. Serve it with low-fat milk and fruit or a glass of 100% juice for an easy-to-prepare nutritious breakfast.”
You’ll notice that the ad fails to mention that the cereal contains 12 grams of sugar, plus 10 grams of “Other Carbohydrate” balanced by only one gram of fiber! Nor does it mention that the main ingredient, other than sugar, is GMO-based corn flour spiced with a little coloring including Yellow 6, which is associated with various cancers, hyperactivity, skin reactions, and allergies.
Apparently, the people at Kellogg’s attended the same school of double speak as their rivals at Quaker Oats. “Our ready-to-eat cereals, including the pre-sweetened varieties, are nutrient dense, low in fat, and many are excellent sources of dietary fiber,” says spokesperson Suzanne Norwitz. She also brags that the company has reformulated five of its cereals to make them much healthier and will be bringing the new versions to market soon. But according to Consumer Reports, the new, healthier versions still don’t measure up.
Goodness knows, feeding children isn’t easy and so parents keep buying the worst of the worst. As long as they do, manufacturers will keep cranking it out along with their euphemistic advertising — while kids keep getting fatter and sicker.