Keeping Up With Sugary Cereal News: Still Not a Good Choice

By Marion Nestle

The Cornucopia Institute warns consumers that "natural" -- a term with absolutely no regulatory meaning -- is just a bunch of marketing hype.

SugaryCereal-Post.jpg

Sugary breakfast cereals are a hard sell these days, and marketers are getting increasingly creative.

Item: The Cornucopia Institute's investigative report on "natural" cereals warns consumers that "natural" -- a term with no regulatory meaning -- is marketing hype. "Natural" is not the same as organic. "Natural" cereals have all kinds of things not allowed in organic cereals. It's best not to confuse them.

Item: Researchers at the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity report in Public Health Nutrition that the households in their study tended to buy cereals advertised directly to children 13 times more frequently than non-advertised products, and that African-American and Hispanic families were most likely to buy cereals advertised directly to children.

Item: The Public Health Advocacy Institute (PHAI) reports that General Mills is using claims about whole grains to distract consumers from the sugar content.

The company's claim of "More Whole Grain Than Any Other Ingredient" comes with an asterisk. This goes to the disclaimer "as compared to any other single ingredient."

PHAI suggests taking a look at the General Mills' web page about sugar. This says that "ready-to-eat cereals account for a relatively small amount of a child's daily sugar intake."

General Mills compares plain Cheerios (1 gram of sugar per serving) to Trix (10 grams of sugar per serving ), and asks:

From a calorie and nutrient standpoint, are both products a good breakfast choice?

Yes, they are. In fact, all General Mills cereals are lower calorie, nutrient dense choices.

From the standpoint of nutritionism (judging a product by its nutrient content), Cheerios is a better-for-you choice.

But both are highly processed cereals, thereby raising that same old philosophical question: Is a somewhat better-for-you processed food necessarily a good choice?

A good question to ponder as you wander down the cereal aisle.

Image: Kamira/Shutterstock.

TEMPLATEFoodPolitics02.jpg

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

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2012/01/keeping-up-with-sugary-cereal-news-still-not-a-good-choice/250431/