Cereal Has Way Too Much Sugar

A new report from the Environmental Working Group, which has taken a recent interest in childhood obesity, breaks down the sugar in kids' breakfast cereals with surprising results

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The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is getting interested in childhood obesity. It released a report on sugars in kids' breakfast cereals.

The report shows -- no surprise -- that kids' cereals are really cookies in disguise, typically 40 percent to 50 percent sugars by weight. Kellogg's Honey Smacks topped the list at 55 percent.

Michele Simon's analysis of the report notes that these levels don't even meet Kellogg's commitment to responsible marketing, a pledge to "apply science-based Kellogg Global Nutrient Criteria to all products currently marketed to children."

I've been reading reports like this since the 1970s when Center for Science in the Public Interest published them at regular intervals. Not much has changed.

Courtesy of Kellogg, I have a collection of copies of Froot Loop boxes dating back to the year in which this cereal was first introduced. I thought it would be interesting to check the sugar content.

Froot Loops, Sugar content, grams per ounce

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In 2005, Kellogg tried a version with 1/3 the sugar -- 10 grams -- but it didn't sell and quickly disappeared.

Companies are trying to reduce the sugars by a little, but this seems to be the best they can do. It's not enough.

As the EWG press release explains, some cereals are better than others. It notes (and I recommend):

  • Cereals with a short ingredient list (of additives other than vitamins and minerals).
  • Cereals high in fiber.
  • Cereals with little or no added sugars (added sugars are ingredients such as honey, molasses, fruit juice concentrate, brown sugar, corn sweetener, sucrose, lactose, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, and malt syrup).
  • Even better, try fresh fruit and homemade oatmeal.

Image: Giuseppe_R/Shutterstock.

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This post also appears on Food Politics, an Atlantic partner site.

Presented by

Marion Nestle is a professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University. She is the author of Food Politics, Safe Food, What to Eat, and Pet Food Politics. More

Nestle also holds appointments as Professor of Sociology at NYU and Visiting Professor of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell. She is the author of three prize-winning books: Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health (revised edition, 2007), Safe Food: The Politics of Food Safety (2003), and What to Eat (2006). Her most recent book is Feed Your Pet Right: The Authoritative Guide to Feeding Your Dog and Cat. She writes the Food Matters column for The San Francisco Chronicle and blogs almost daily at Food Politics.

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