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How Healthy Is Your Breakfast Cereal?

Posted by Chrissie Cole
Thursday, October 02, 2008 9:13 AM EST
Category: Protecting Your Family
Tags: Major Medical, Protecting Your Family, Kid's Health, Cereal, Consumer Reports, Breakfast, Nutrition


IMAGE SOURCE: © iStockPhoto / girl eating breakfast / author: Belknap

A bowl of cereal can be less healthful for your child than a glazed doughnut from Dunkin Donuts, according to a new ranking of kids’ breakfast cereals published by Consumer Reports.

23 of the top 27 breakfast cereals that are marketed to children in the U.S. are more than half sugar by weight and many received fair or good scores based on nutritional values.

Kellogg’s Honey Smacks and Post Golden Crisp have more than 50 percent sugar (by weight) and nine others are 40 percent sugar or more. And, that is not the only issue.

While, Kellogg’s Rice Krispies has only 4 grams of sugar per serving, it still received a Fair rating, mainly because it is high in sodium and contains zero dietary fiber.

“Be sure to read the cereal labels and pick one that is high in fiber and low in sugar and sodium,” Gayle Williams, deputy editor of Consumer Reports Health, said in a statement.

The nutritional ratings are based on serving sizes recommended on the product label. But, Consumer Reports took it a step further and did some testing to see what kids actually eat.

They studied 91 children, ages 6 to 16, and found that on average, they served themselves 50 to 65 percent more than suggested serving sizes for three out of the four tested cereals.

If the kids ate the entire average amount of Frosted Flakes they poured for themselves, they would have consumed about 18 grams of sugar per serving. With Kix, the kids poured portions closer to that of recommended servings.

Healthy Cereal Choices

Cheerios, Kix, Honey Nut Cheerios, all General Mills brand cereals, and Life by Quaker Oats, contained relatively lower sugar and higher dietary fiber. Cheerios topped the list with only 1 gram of sugar and a healthy 3 grams of fiber per serving.

Kellogg’s Frosted Mini-Wheats Bite Size also earned a healthful cereal score of good with just 12 grams of sugar per serving, low sodium and 6 grams of fiber.

Kellogg is working to make its cereal more nutritious.

“Kellogg recently reformulated several of our cereals including Corn Pops, Cocoa Crispies, Apple Jacks and Froot Loops in the U.S. with improved nutritional profiles,” wrote a company spokeswoman by e-mail.

“To put Consumer Reports’ information into perspective, yogurt has more sugar and sodium than a single serving of Honey Smacks cereal (25 grams of sugar in yogurt vs. 15 grams of sugar).”

Healthy Breakfast Tips

Registered dieticians know how to eat a smart breakfast, while also satisfying a smart tooth. This is good news for kids and grownups alike that enjoy indulging in a bowl of sugary cereal. Sarah Krieger, a registered dietician at All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, Florida, is among them and she has some healthy tips to share:

Go for Protein. A good breakfast choice is peanut butter on a whole-grain English muffin.

Fiber Up. Consider non-sugary cereals that aren’t marketed to kids but great choices such as Raisin Brain, Grape Nuts of Kashi Go Lean Crunch.

Whole Grains. Not only do whole grain cereals have more fiber, but they have more natural vitamins and minerals. Or opt for good ole oatmeal.

Be Creative. Leftover pasta and pizza are great breakfast options, says Krieger. Add a piece of fruit and a glass of milk and you’re good to go.

Sugar Substitutes Beware. Many cereal companies have started replacing sugar with artificial sweeteners so they can claim the product has less sugar, says Tara Gudis, a registered dietician and spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. Something you likely wouldn’t know unless you read the fine print in the ingredients on the box. Eating super sweet food, even artificially sweetened, is not a good idea.

Eat Breakfast Every Day. Eating breakfast every morning is a key part of healthy living, particularly for kids. Several studies have shown that eating breakfast makes for better cognitive performance through the day and less weight gain over time. #

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