According to a new study by the Environmental Working Group, some children's cereals contain more sugar than Twinkies and Chips Ahoy! cookies. The worst offender, Kellogg's Honey Smacks, is nearly a whopping 56% sugar by weight. For the top 10 list of the sugariest children's cereals, click here or head to the jump.
In their review of 84 popular brands, the EWG found that one cup of Honey Smacks (nee Sugar Smacks), Post Golden Crisp (nee Sugar Crisp, Super Sugar Crisp) or General Mills Wheaties Fuel (yes, Wheaties!) has more sugar than a Twinkie. One cup of any of 44 other children's cereals–including Honey Nut Cheerios, Apple Jacks and Cap'n Crunch–contains more sugar than three Chips Ahoy! cookies.
Most children's cereals–about three-quarters–fail to meet the federal government's proposed voluntary guidelines for foods nutritious enough to be marketed to children, the group says. Sugar is the top problem, but many also contain too much sodium or fat or not enough whole grain. The federal guidelines recommend no more than 26% added sugar by weight. The EWG suggests, “Simple-to-prepare, healthy breakfasts for children can include fresh fruit and high-fiber, lower-sugar cereals. Better yet, pair that fruit with homemade oatmeal.”
Their report quotes hippie health expert Dr. Andrew Weil as saying, “The fact that a children's breakfast cereal is 56% sugar by weight — and many others are not far behind — should cause national outrage.”
The EWG also quotes noted NYU nutrition professor Marion Nestle as saying, “Cereal companies have spent fortunes on convincing parents that a kid's breakfast means cereal, and that sugary cereals are fun, benign and all kids will eat. The cereals on the EWG highest-sugar list are among the most profitable for their makers, who back up their investment with advertising budgets of $20 million a year or more. No public health agency has anywhere near the education budget equivalent to that spent on a single cereal. Kids should not be eating sugar for breakfast. They should be eating real food.”
The EWG's “10 Worst Children's Cereals,” based on percent sugar by weight:
1. Kellogg's Honey Smacks — 55.6%
2. Post Golden Crisp — 51.9%
3. Kellogg's Froot Loops Marshmallow — 48.3%
4. Quaker Oats Cap'n Crunch's OOPS! All Berries — 46.9%
5. Quaker Oats Cap'n Crunch Original — 44.4%
6. Quaker Oats Oh!s — 44.4%
7. Kellogg's Smorz — 43.3%
8. Kellogg's Apple Jacks — 42.9%
9. Quaker Oats Cap'n Crunch's Crunch Berries — 42.3%
10. Kellogg's Froot Loops Original — 41.4%
The best children's cereals, according to the EWG, are Kellogg's Mini-Wheats: Unfrosted Bite-Size, Frosted Big Bite, Frosted Bite-Size, Frosted Little Bite; General Mills Cheerios Original; and General Mills Kix Original. It recommends that parents look for cereals with a short ingredient list that are high in fiber with few or no added sugars (including honey, molasses, fruit juice concentrate, brown sugar, corn sweetener, sucrose, lactose, glucose, high fructose corn syrup and malt syrup). They advise: “Cereals that meet these criteria can usually be found on the top shelves of the cereal aisle. They are harder to reach and not at eye level but often less expensive.”
Follow Samantha Bonar @samanthabonar.