How much sugar is really in your kids’ cereal?
For many adults, some of their earliest childhood friends they can remember were cereal mascots like Cap’n Crunch®, Count Chocula® and Tony the Tiger®.
And most of the kids who ate these sweet cereals grew up and moved on to more “adult” cereals like Grape-Nuts® and All-Bran®. But many are now feeding their own children the same sugary cereals they loved when they were kids.
According to a recent study from the Environmental Working Group (EWG), kids in the U.S. are consuming more than 10 pounds of sugar each year if they eat a typical bowl of cereal every day – contributing, the study says, to obesity and other health problems.
The study looked at 1,556 cereal brands, including 181 that are specifically marketed to children. EWG found that all of the cereals marketed to children got an average of 34 percent of their calories from sugar and contained over 40 percent more sugar than adult cereals.
The EWG says that this contributes to an average daily intake of sugar that is two to three times the recommended amount for children. And while the Food and Drug Administration recently proposed listing added sugar content to the nutrition panels on packaged foods, the EWG thinks more can be done.
“Obviously we know cereals have a lot of sugar in them,” said Dawn Undurraga, co-author of the study in a statement. “But there is a lot that manufacturers can be doing and FDA can be doing, to protect kids.”
For their part, some cereal companies say that they have been reducing their products’ sugar content. Kelloggs says it has reduced sugar content in its top-selling children’s cereals by 20-30 percent over the last few years. General Mills says it has cut sugar by 16 percent since 2007, with its cereals averaging 10 grams of sugar or less.
The EWG believes that cereals with more than six grams of sugar should not be marketed to children.
“Childhood obesity is a major health problem for the U.S.,” says Dr. Andrea Kane, a pediatrician with Advocate Medical Group in Bloomington, Illinois. “It is the leading chronic disease in kids. Excessive sugary intake through cereal and juice is one of many contributing factors to a poor diet that leads to obesity as well as dental cavities.”
Dr. Kane added that sugary breakfast foods aren’t the best choice for kids to maintain concentration throughout a long morning of school.
“A balanced breakfast that includes protein is important for learning and education,” she says.
So what should parents do?
Dr. Kane recommends limiting your kids’ sugar intake and serving them more foods in their natural state, such as fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains and skim milk. A sweetened cereal could be an occasional treat, but shouldn’t be a morning staple.
About the Author
health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.