The Most Sugar-Packed Children’s Cereals

Fifty-six different cereals have more sugar than federal guidelines recommend. Find out which brands are the worst offenders

Credit: mroach

Fifty-six different cereals have more sugar than federal guidelines suggest

Popular children’s cereals are more often than not chock-full of sugar. Do you know what your kids are eating for breakfast?

Would you feed your kids a handful of cookies and a cup of milk for breakfast? Or perhaps a Twinkie and a glass of juice? No? Well according to a recent Environmental Working Group (EWG) report on 84 popular breakfast cereals, many of us are doing just that: essentially giving our kids the kind of heavily processed, sugar-laden start to the day that rivals a junky dessert.

The study analyzed the nutritional content of well-known cereals that are marketed primarily to children (Kellogg’s, Post, General Mills and Quaker Oats). What they discovered was appalling: only one in four contained sugar within the recommended federal guidelines. Fifty-six cereals contained more than 26% of their weight in sugar. And 21 of the breakfast cereals contained more sugar than the cereal industry’s own recommended standards of 38%.

This means our kids are being sugared up and short-changed on a healthy start to their day.

According to the EWG, “Studies suggest that children who eat high-sugar breakfasts have more problems at school. They become more frustrated and have a harder time working independently than kids who eat lower-sugar breakfasts. By lunchtime they have less energy, are hungrier, show attention deficits and make more mistakes on their work (Warren 2003, Ingwersen 2007, Benton 2007).

Laboratory studies suggest that sugar is habit forming, stimulating the same brain responses as opiates (Avena 2008). A case can be made that sugar acts as a drug, enticing kids to eat more and more.”

So the first step is to avoid the obvious offenders.

The 10 Most Sugary Children’s Cereals

  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%

But don’t just stop with these. According to the EWG, “Seven children’s cereals perform especially poorly against the proposed federal nutritional guidelines effective until 2016, EWG’s analysis found. Each fails on three criteria: too much sugar and saturated fat, and too little whole grain content. They are: Kellogg’s Cocoa Krispies, Post Cocoa Pebbles and Fruity Pebbles, three varieties of Quaker Oats Cap’n Crunch (Original, Crunch Berry and Peanut Butter Crunch), and Quaker Oats Oh!s.”

Then there is the issue with relatively nutritious choices being lumped in with the less healthy options (aka not all Cheerios are created equal):

  • General Mills Cheerios – Cheerios Original is 3.6% sugar. While Apple Cinnamon Cheerios, Chocolate Cheerios, Fruity Cheerios are 33% sugar.
  • Kellogg’s Rice Krispies – Gluten Free variety is 3.3 percent sugar. But frosted Krispies is 40% sugar.
  • General Mills Chex – Rice Chex is 7% sugar. Honey Nut Chex is 28% sugar.
  • Kellogg’s Mini-Wheats – Unfrosted Bite-Size is 1.7% sugar. Frosted Mini-Wheats Maple & Brown Sugar is 25% sugar.
  • General Mills Kix – Kix Original is 10% sugar. Berry Berry Kix is 21% sugar.
  • Quaker Oats Cap’n Crunch – Peanut Butter Crunch is 33% sugar. OOPS! All Berries contains 47% sugar.
  • General Mills Wheaties – Wheaties Original is 15% sugar. Wheaties Fuel is 25% sugar.

Parents obviously feel they need to feed their kids something, and thanks to aggressive marketing we’ve been brainwashed into thinking that junky cereal is the way to go. But another recent study proves that kids are smarter than we think – and that when they are offered healthy options they will be just as happy to consume low-sugar cereal, fresh fruit, yogurt and other nutritious options.

So check the ingredients, lose the sugar and if you are serving cereal, offer fresh fruit to sweeten it instead.