While a lot of things go into making a bad children’s cereal – most of the credit must go to the sugar. Based on an analysis of 84 children’s cereals, EWG puts these 10 (with their percent of sugar by weight) on their worst offenders list:
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%)
You’ve got to give it to Kellogg’s – they don’t beat around the bush with outlandish products like Honey Smacks, Froot Loops, Apple Jacks and the almost unbelievable Smorz. You know what you’re getting into with Kellogg’s – lots and lots of sugar. So much so that sugar is the first ingredient in 3 of those 4 cereals. At least Smorz has the decency to bump it down to number 2.
Now, granted, spotlighting sugar in kids’ cereals is certainly swinging at the low-hanging fruit. But what you might not catch is that at the same time, Kellogg’s is also trying to soften the blow of that sugar high with their ridiculous front-of-package nutrition claims. These very same super sugary cereal boxes are now regularly plastered with “Good Source of Fiber” and “Made with Whole Grain” claims.
A “good source” of fiber is just one that contains 2.5-4.9 grams of fiber per serving (“high in” fiber is 5 grams or more). You can rest assured that with Apple Jacks, those 3 grams of fiber per 1 cup serving aren’t coming from apples – they’re from added, isolated sources of fiber such as soluble corn fiber and oat fiber. Whether or not these types of fiber convey the same health benefits as naturally occurring, intact fibers remains yet to be proven.
And the “Made with Whole Grain” claim? Also borderline bunk, since it’s made with whole grain, but not entirely from whole grains. You can mix up a batch of the whitest flour you can find, toss in a drop of whole wheat flour – and claim it’s made with whole grain. It is, at best, a disingenuous designation.
So, if these are the worst of the worst – then which cereals are actually good for you? Check out EWG’s list of Best Cereals by clicking here.
Registered Dietitian McKenzie Hall also provides some solid tips for perfecting your breakfast cereal prowess:
- Look for the word “whole” in the first ingredient of your cereal
- Add slivered almonds or Greek yogurt to dry cereal to boost your protein intake
- Make your own high fiber breakfast cereal
To learn how to make your own fiber-packed Muesli – and to view a comparison table of fiber-containing breakfast cereals – check out McKenzie’s article Fiber Facts About Cereal from Today’s Dietitian Magazine.