That many popular children’s breakfast cereals are high in sugar is not new news. What’s alarming is that over the years food manufacturers have done little to change that and may in fact be packing even more of the sweet stuff into those kid-alluring, colorful boxes.
A study released last week by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) found that among 84 cereals, at least three that are marketed to children contain more sugar in a one-cup serving than a Hostess Twinkie. An additional 44, the study revealed, serve up more sugar in a cup than three Chips Ahoy! cookies. The three worst offenders: Kellogg’s Honey Smacks, Post Golden Crisp and General Mills Wheaties Fuel. Even more cavity-inducing is my guess that few kids limit themselves to just one cup of cereal per serving.
“Most children’s cereals fail to meet the federal government’s proposed voluntary guidelines for foods nutritious enough to be marketed to children. Sugar is the top problem, but they may also contain too much sodium or fat or not enough whole grain,” the EWG stated in its report on the study. “The bottom line: Most parents say no to dessert for breakfast, but many children’s cereals have just as much sugar as a dessert – or more.”
Compounding the sugar shock, 56 of the 84 analyzed cereals contain more than 24 to 26 percent sugar by weight. The voluntary guidelines proposed earlier this year by the federal Interagency Working Group on Food Marketed to Children recommend no more than 26 percent added sugar by weight for all foods marketed to children. The evil Kellogg’s Honey Smacks is nearly 56 percent sugar by weight, EWG says.
It’s no surprise that the big cereal makers have largely ignored voluntary guidelines and the alarmingly increasing rates of obesity and diabetes among our children. They’re out to make a buck by mercilessly marketing sugar-bomb cereals to kids with fun characters, commercial inundation and “a prize inside,” while also persuading parents to believe their products are the – and the only – nutritious breakfast choice of champions.
What are the best ways we as consumers can stop this morning meal madness?