Saturday, April 7, 2012

Kids' Cereals - Healthy?

I am a big cereal eater.  A bowl every morning for breakfast.  Perhaps it's Kashi, or Multigrain Cheerios, or, if I'm bad, every now and then I purchase a box of Raisin Bran Crunch.

I thank my mom for instilling in me a love of "healthy" cereals, while my husband noshes on his Lucky Charms (yuck!).  Growing up, we could pick ANY cereal we wanted - as long as sugar wasn't listed in the top three ingredients!  Do you know how hard this is???  So, we usually ended up going with Fruit and Fiber (no longer made, sadly).

But, perhaps what we perceive as healthy isn't, really, all that healthy?  Here I refer you to research conducted my one of my faves, the Environmental Working Group.

Based on percent sugar by weight, they came up with the 10 worst children's cereals.  Ready for this?

1Kellogg's Honey Smacks55.6%
2Post Golden Crisp51.9%
3Kellogg's Froot Loops Marshmallow48.3%
4Quaker Oats Cap'n Crunch's OOPS! All Berries46.9%
5Quaker Oats Cap'n Crunch Original44.4%
6Quaker Oats Oh!s44.4%
7Kellogg's Smorz43.3%
8Kellogg's Apple Jacks42.9%
9Quaker Oats Cap'n Crunch's Crunch Berries42.3%
10Kellogg's Froot Loops Original41.4%

No biggie.  I don't know how anyone eats that crap anyway.  (By the way, in case you glanced over those numbers, for Honey Smacks, that translates to over half of that cereal's weight is sugar...  yep, that's right.)  As a matter of fact, according to EWG, "A one-cup serving of Honey Smacks packs more sugar than a Hostess Twinkie, and one cup of any of 44 other children's cereals has more sugar than three Chips Ahoy! cookies."  (Yes, one of my faves, Honey Nut Cheerios, is on that list - bummer.  Even my Multigrain Cheerios have 6 grams of sugar per serving - that's over 20% by weight!)

And, here are there recommendations for the BEST cereals to feed your kids, to get 'em up and at 'em in the morning...

  • Ambrosial Granola

  • Go Raw

  • Grandy Oats

  • Kaia Foods

  • Laughing Giraffe

  • Lydia's Organic

  • Nature's Path Organics

And in case these are hard to find, here are the best name-brand cereals:

  • Kellogg's Mini-Wheats:
    Unfrosted Bite- Size,
    Frosted Big Bite,
    Frosted Bite-Size,
    Frosted Little Bite

  • General Mills Cheerios Original

  • General Mills Kix Original

  • Post Shredded Wheat (all varieties)

  • Post Grape-Nuts Flakes

  • Quaker Oats Oatmeal Squares Cinnamon

  • Post Bran Flakes

  • Post Honey Bunches of Oats with Vanilla Bunches

EWG recommends looking for the following in your cereal:

  • Cereals with a short ingredient list (added vitamins and minerals are okay).

  • Cereals high in fiber.

  • Cereals 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 (USDA 2006a).

The Cornucopia Institute also has a great cereal scorecard, in which they place important emphasis on whether or not the cereal is organic.

A good rule of thumb is no more than 1 gram of sugar per 25 calories.  So I think I'll follow suite after my mom - I think I'll let my kids pick ANY cereal they want...  so long as it has 5 or less grams of sugar per serving!

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