By: Kerry Bazany
On a busy weekday morning in thousands of American households, breakfast is the one meal of the day that is usually rushed and often thrown together with processed food such as granola bars, trail mixes, and the ever-popular cereal products. Raise hand here: I know that I have been guilty of such infractions of a healthy diet for both myself and my children. As busy parents, we are faced with the conundrum of how to accommodate a healthy diet with the pressure of getting sleepy, cranky kids to eat anything on a busy morning while we are trying to simultaneously get them out the door with us or on the school bus. Sometimes we ponder the possible wisdom of why lions sometimes eat their young….
But There is Hope
As American consumers, we crave convenience, especially when it comes to the aforementioned eat-and-run breakfasts. However, we absolutely know the dangers of giving our kids too much sugar. And dangerous it is. Sugar is known to cause changes in the brain: changes similar to those who are addicted to cocaine and alcohol. Sugar is also overwhelming addictive. The more we eat, the more we want of that sweet substance. And manufacturers of cereals know this. Even though efforts have been made to curtail the amount of sugar in processed cereals, such cereals that contain whole grains with little sugar are marketed more to adults rather than to children based upon the fact that children are obsessed with sugar and exhibit the addictive tendencies associated with its consumption. There’s a lot of money to be made in sugary cereals.
Recently, the Kellogg’s company UK branch, manufacturers of cereal such as Fruit Loops, Apple Jacks, Corn Flakes, Frosted Flakes, Rice Krispies, and Cocoa Krispies is reducing sugar in its popular Coco Pops cereal by 40 percent (from 30 grams per 100grams to 17 grams per serving). This follows a previous company sugar reduction, effectively halving the amount of sugar in Coco Pops, one of the UK’s best-selling cereals. Sugar in Rice Krispies cereal will be reduced by 20 percent and Rice Krispies Multi-Grain Shapes will see a 30 percent reduction in sugar per serving. Earlier this year, Public Health England called on food companies to reduce sugar by 20 percent by 2020. Kellogg’s UK managing director, Oli Morton stated, “We know we have a responsibility to continuously improve the nutrition of our food. We recognize, based on national dietary survey data, that people are eating too much sugar at breakfast….that’s why we are announcing more changes to our food so that we can continue to support people in making better choices. Our shoppers have told us that taste is important to them so we’ve worked hard to ensure that our new recipes are just as delicious.”
Enter Kellogg Company, USA. According to the website openforbreakfast.com, a Kellogg consumer website, “One of the things we know people want less of is sugar, so we’ve reduced it in our top-selling US kids’ cereals by 20 to 30 percent over the past few years. Today, the majority of our cereals have 10 grams of sugar or less per 30 gram serving”. But that’s still too much sugar for kids’ developing bodies. The American Heart Association recommends that the daily sugar intake for children be no more than 12 to 25 grams a day, and that includes natural sugars found in fruits, fruit juices, and honey. Kellogg’s has offered a list of their cereals that already contain 10 grams of sugar or less, and they include All-Bran Buds cereal, All-Bran, Special K Cinnamon Pecan, Special K Granola Touch of Honey, and Special K Protein cereals. Okay, raise your hand if your kid would eat those.
The Devil is in the Dextrose
As previously mentioned, there is reluctance on the part of US cereal manufacturers to jump fully onto the sugar reduction bandwagon due to the staggering profits of its sugary kids’ cereals. However, these companies are beginning to bow to the pressure exerted by the American Pediatric Society, the American Heart Association, the American Diabetes Association, and the general public. Specifically, the rise in the obesity rate and concurrent incidences of Type 2 diabetes is noteworthy and frightening. In the United States, about 208,000 people younger than 20 years of age are living with diagnosed diabetes. The National Institute of Health found that from 2002 to 2012, the rate of newly diagnosed cases of type 2 diabetes increased 4.8 percent each year. Children who develop Type 2 diabetes face serious risks in combination with the fact that most are already obese. Obesity and diabetes increase their lifetime risk of heart attacks, strokes, kidney failure, and blindness. The addictive properties of sugar are surely a culprit for our children as they are innocently attracted to its intoxicating taste.
A List of Cereals to Avoid
Unfortunately, it looks as if Kellogg’s has a lot of work to do, but the process of reducing sugar content in children’s cereals is underway. Also be aware that the cereals on this list additionally contain lots of artificial preservatives and dyes.
(One serving is equivalent to 30 grams).
- Kellogg’s Fruit Loops: 10g of sugar per serving.
- Kellogg’s Corn Pops: 9g of sugar per serving.
- Kellogg’s Apple Jacks: 10g of sugar per serving.
- Kellogg’s Apple Jacks: 15g of sugar per serving.
- General Mill’s Lucky Charms: 10g of sugar per serving.
- General Mill’s Boo Berry/Count Chocula/Franken Berry: 9g of sugar per serving.
- General Mill’s Trix: 10g of sugar per serving.
- Post Foods Fruity Pebbles: 9g of sugar per serving.
- Post Golden Crisps: 14g of sugar per serving.
- Cap’N Crunch Crunch Berries: 11g of sugar per serving.