home
RSS
December 7th, 2011
12:01 AM ET

Sugar is on the menu for kids’ breakfast

Only one in four children’s cereals meets government guidelines for limits on sugar, according to a new report by the Environmental Working Group, a consumer advocacy organization.

Proposed government guidelines recommend that cereals have no more than 26% added sugar by weight, according to the report, and the Environmental Working Group found that many popular cereals, including Froot Loops, Cap’n Crunch and Honey Smacks, had more than 40% added sugar.

“Our children deserve better,” Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Connecticut, said in a press release issued by the Environmental Working Group.

The proposed recommendations are voluntary and not legally binding on food manufacturers. They were designed to help children slim down, because one out of three children in the United States is either overweight or obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

According to the report, a cup of some cereals has more sugar than a Twinkie or three Chips Ahoy! chocolate chip cookies.

Cereal makers took issue with the report.  A spokeswoman for Kellogg’s said the company has reduced the sugar in its cereals by about 16% and breakfast cereals contribute less than 4% of added sugar in the U.S. diet.

Kellogg’s makes Honey Smacks, the cereal with the highest sugar content, according to the Environmental Working Group. Linda Sutherland, the company’s vice president of nutrition, said the cereal, which has a large smiling green frog on the box, is not marketed to children.

Sutherland also noted that the report considered a full cup of cereal to be a serving, while the serving size listed on the box is .75 of a cup.

One dietitian said whether the serving size is .75 of a cup or a cup, there is no way her son would eat just one serving.

“My 9-year-old would eat three servings in one sitting if he could,” said Jeannie Moloo, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. “So I only give him sugary cereals once in a while. He wants them all the time, so it’s a real battle.”

Moloo said she usually serves her children healthier options for breakfast, such as a whole wheat bagel with light cream cheese, whole wheat waffles or yogurt with fruit.

There are cereals with relatively low sugar content. Rice Krispies, for example, has 4 grams of sugar per serving, and Cheerios has 1 gram.

The 10 most sugary cereals in the report have between 19 grams and 12 grams of sugar in a cup.  A Twinkie has about 18 grams of sugar and three Chips Ahoy! cookies have 11 grams of sugar.

A statement from the Quaker Oats Co. noted that while Cap’n Crunch, fourth on the list, is “not marketed as a health product, it does include essential vitamins and minerals and offers consumers a low-fat breakfast option when paired with low-fat milk and a serving of fruit.”

CNN's Aaron Cooper contributed to this report.


soundoff (66 Responses)
  1. Mike

    If you needed to "Do a Study" to figure this out, you are a doorknob.

    December 7, 2011 at 05:42 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Lorelei

      Yes, please stop running and reporting repeat studies of the extremely obvious. Next thing you know they'll be telling us again that movie theater popcorn is bad for us, as the New York Times did (again) recently. Yeesh.

      December 7, 2011 at 10:00 | Report abuse |
  2. TampaMel

    When did people notice suger in cereal? I am almost 65 and there has been suger in cereal (can you say Suger Frosted Flakes) since I was a kid (and probably before). The only thing in this article that has any worth is 'portion size'. The only products on the market where portion size is valid are those where the portion size is equal to the entire contents of the package. People who might even look at the nutrition label never relate those numbers with the portion. Does anyone actually measure the cereal or do we just dump from box to bowl? Then we go and say, why am I or why is my child gaining weight? It is not the sugar, it is not the fat, it is not the combination of foods or time of day you eat certain food, it is calories and portion control fixes that (no matter what you eat).

    December 7, 2011 at 06:16 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Sean

      Plus the lack of regular exercise. My kid eats sugar and lots of sweet stuffs but played a lot of sports, so all those calories got burned in no time.

      December 7, 2011 at 09:14 | Report abuse |
  3. Portland tony

    There goes the government again: Establishing ideal ingredients for our ideal children's breakfast. Not a thought given to those kids who are lucky to get a dry peace of toast (or nothing at all) before a breakfast snack at school through government nutritional programs. In this economy, with both parents working, there are few families that have the luxury of a sit down "leave it to beaver" breakfast. Most kids don't get enough to eat period. Let alone worry about how many grams of sugar are on the cereal they never eat. Any breakfast is a good breakfast for those who currently get no breakfast.

    December 7, 2011 at 06:23 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Leo

      Sure, it's better than NOTHING, but given the fact that cereals like Cheerios are usually less expensive than fancy sugary cereals, why not give the kids something low-sugar like that? Or Rice Crispies? Or the popularly advertised kids' cereal "Kix"? All low sugar, and no more expensive than Frosted Flakes and other bowl-full-of-sugar cereals.

      December 7, 2011 at 08:39 | Report abuse |
    • Jon

      Say what you want about the government and big brother mentalities but there is an obesity epidemic in this country with young children getting diabetes and people dying in early life due to poor food choices. If a report like this is what it takes to get me to chance my kids eating habits, then so be it!

      December 7, 2011 at 09:07 | Report abuse |
    • by12on

      most kids may not have enough to eat but what they eat has too much sugar/salt/fat in them usually. its disturbing that any cereal could have nearly half of its weight attributed to sugar. in addition to obesity problems, think of the dental problems that causes! this affects the health insurance premiums for everyone in the country. the government is not to blame. the parents are to blame. even if the parents are busy, they can still give your child something healthy. it is a mistake to think that health food is inconvenient and time consuming to obtain/prepare.

      December 7, 2011 at 09:16 | Report abuse |
    • Brad

      Hot cereal, takes 5 to 10 min to prepare, very healthy. Oatmeal, 5min to prepare. Wholegrain cereals, cheap, just add milk. Next axcuste please. Now for the truth, parents are lazy and don't want to deal with their whining kid. That is fine with me to, I don't care if your kid is fat and disgusting and ends up dieing at an early age, more space for healthy non-lazy people.

      December 7, 2011 at 09:42 | Report abuse |
    • dom625

      Leo, I can't speak for everyone, but I always dumped extra sugar in my Cheerios or Rice Krispies because they had no flavor otherwise. I most likely ate more sugar that way than I would have from pre-sweetened cereals.

      The obesity epidemic began right around the time high-stakes testing in schools began. Suddenly, PE was slashed and recesses cut to make more time for math, reading, and language arts instruction. Children weren't meant to sit in desks for seven hours a day, especially elementary children. It doesn't matter *what* you eat so long as you remain active and balance intake and expenditures. For example, I love refined carbs–white breads, pasta, cakes, candy, etc.–and eat these on a regular basis. But I also work out daily and have been able to maintain my weight over the past years. Everyone needs to increase physical activity, we need to bring back actual PE in the schools, and we need to push for increased recess time.

      December 7, 2011 at 09:46 | Report abuse |
    • Spirit

      You act as if the United States is another country entirely. Kids don't get enough to eat? Sure, I guess, even if almost half the country is overweight. I think it's more like kids just don't eat right – and don't practice good eating habits, at that. If parents didn't have time for their children, then – unless they work over 12 hours a day – they just don't care enough for them.

      December 7, 2011 at 10:37 | Report abuse |
    • Leo

      Dom625,

      Would that be because your parents provided the raw sugar and allowed you to dump it onto your cereal? I'm telling you, if you START your kids on eating low-sugar cereal from the beginning, and DON'T give them extra sugar to dump on top of the cereal, they'll NEVER MISS IT. A kid can't want what they've never had. For example, I NEVER had marshmallow fluff as a kid. I didn't even know what it was. I tasted it as an adult, and found it disgustingly sweet. My mother didn't keep sugary cereal in the house either, so I never missed it.

      I do agree with you about activity level, though. We really need to get kids to exercise more. And I absolutely agree with you about them cutting gym classes in school. Very sad.

      December 7, 2011 at 11:56 | Report abuse |
    • ser

      I don't buy into what you are saying.....both me and my wife work...and we are somehow able to give our kids a healthy breakfast each morning before work..they usually have a yougurt (not the fruit at teh bottom kind either) a slice of whole wheat toast with either PB or Jelly on it....or a hard boiled egg (made the night before) a fruit (banana, strawberries,) so I dont' buy the fact that there is no time...it takes 1.5 minutes to make a slice of toast...or hard boil some eggs on teh weekend and have them ready to go...I think it is pure laziness and selfishness on the parents part.

      December 8, 2011 at 12:27 | Report abuse |
    • ser

      to add...they usually eat oatmeal...they have kinds that take a minute....no excuse...no excuse

      December 8, 2011 at 12:28 | Report abuse |
  4. Matt

    Doesn't matter anyways, the carbs from the grains will causes just as much damage as the sugar. both are just compounding the issue. The carbs alone will spike insulin and cause insulin resistance and overtime create a system in the body were more and more fat will be stored. Get the kids off cereals all together, go to eggs, meats. There are some great recipes using Almond flour, or any type of nut flour to make pancakes and other cereal subsittutes. Time for people to realize that we were never meant to eat that many carbs, especially refined carbs.

    December 7, 2011 at 08:46 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Lydia

      Only processed carbs will do that. Even a lot of sugary cereals are still made with whole grain. Complex carbs=good. Processed carbs=bad. I wish people would get this straight.

      December 7, 2011 at 09:47 | Report abuse |
  5. sally fields

    DUH

    December 7, 2011 at 08:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Pete

    In other news, humans need to breathe air to survive.

    December 7, 2011 at 09:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Katherine

    Forget sugar!. Use AGAVE or Stevia. Natural sweetners.

    December 7, 2011 at 09:03 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Brad

      I prefer raw unprocessed honey :)

      December 7, 2011 at 09:44 | Report abuse |
    • Kim

      Neither of those are "natural" sweeterners. Agave is just as processed as HFCS, and stevia in its powdered form is highly concentrated and is nothing like its leaf form. You would be better off with honey or maple sugar.

      December 7, 2011 at 10:29 | Report abuse |
  8. Max

    A BALANCED DIET.........prevents ninety percent of our health problems.

    But who gives a s**t....right??

    Lets go troll about alec baldwin.

    December 7, 2011 at 09:06 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Brad

      What's really funny is all the fat slobs out there saying they can't afford to eat healthy, as they put a $100 dollar pill into there fat mouth for there fat caused high blood sugar. LOL, eating healthy is way cheaper. It's all just excuses.

      December 7, 2011 at 09:46 | Report abuse |
  9. Portland tony

    I, my kids and my four grandkids were fortunately raised eating the morning cereals you suggested. But there are many children because of economic necessity or lack of parental knowledge or caring do not get proper nutrition to start their day.

    December 7, 2011 at 09:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. smartaz

    I really hope this isn't a study our taxes paid for. Anyone that still has a functioning brain cell has known this for the past 30 years. Hey Jeannie Moloo, I have a perfect solution for you. If you don't want your 9 year old to eat the cereal then don't buy it. See? Mom – 1 9 year old – 0.

    This is absolutely nothing new or unknown. For how many years has cereal been covered in sugar? How long have kids been eating pancakes covered in maple syrup? This reeks of another group begging for government intervention because a handful of parents have no freaking common sense on how to feed their kids. They give the kid full power to eat what they want when they want then they cry and cry about how the government is failing their child. To all the bad parents, wake up and do your job.

    December 7, 2011 at 09:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. angelaD

    Stopped buying these types of cereal long time ago....and sugar is the least of the problems here. Check out how many cereals have BHT and what it means. Or all the other chemicals. I am trying not to be paranoid about these things but it's hard to find foods that are not altered in some way even breads, juices, gum etc.

    December 7, 2011 at 09:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Brad

    So tell the stupid people to read the nutritional facts on the box, if they are high in sugar, don't get it, it's very simple.

    December 7, 2011 at 09:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. bhibsen

    I actually laughed out loud at this:

    "Kellogg’s makes Honey Smacks, the cereal with the highest sugar content, according to the Environmental Working Group. Linda Sutherland, the company’s vice president of nutrition, said the cereal, which has a large smiling green frog on the box, is not marketed to children."

    By the way, they used to be called Sugar Smacks, I believe.

    December 7, 2011 at 09:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Victor

    With all this said... What about a nice bowl of real old fashion oats with a banana or an apple chopped up with a tblsp of honey? At any rate, the main problem is that people are lazy and would rather spend there time the night before watching someone else loose weight or some group of women play fight on TV. Get some rest at night and maybe you can be a good parent and wake up in the morning on time and cook a decent breakfast for your child that you love...

    Stop making excuses for you and your families health. If you have a problem with it, just don't buy it and it will be off the shelf in no time. 'They' won't make it if you don't buy it, but we are such sheep that we allow big money and our kids decide what is the right thing to eat for breakfast. Cook them some oatmeal or something else that is from the ground, and not from the lab, I do... even when I'm tired, and I start when they are old enough to get off of milk. You create the desired tastes for you child, not the cereal mfg.

    December 7, 2011 at 09:47 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dawn

      Your are 100% right. I don't have kids, but i have relatives that do and they let their kids eat whatever. Mainly because of laziness my Aunt works graveyard shift so she taught her kids how to prepare thier own meals in the morning and get thier uniforms out the night before for school. That's all good, but the kids are eating junk food while she's asleep!

      December 7, 2011 at 10:02 | Report abuse |
  15. Brad

    Most of the producst you buy are all made by a few companies, even though it looks like there are a thousand brands out there. Most of them are all corn or soy based, and so processed, you get nothing out of them. I'm no geniouse, all I did was do a TINY amount of research and got a ton of info. It's not hard to know the truth if you want to know it.

    December 7, 2011 at 09:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Dawn

    All breakfast menu have either high sugar or salt. Cereal instead of frosted flakes or Cap n Crunch replace it with wheaties, instead of whole milk, replace that with lowfat 2%milk, instead of orange juice, replace it with either an peeled orange or grapefruit juice. For hot meal instead of bacon, replace that with lean turkey bacon, eggs without the yolk, cream of wheat without sugar and butter, and oatmeal with a bit of cinnamon instaed of sugar. Thankgod i don't have kids!!!!

    December 7, 2011 at 09:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Sara

    Sugar feed cancer cells, lowers immune system, and causes the body to store fat. Sugar and processed carbs are dangerous for our children period, end of story. Stop feeding your kids sugar and processed carbs if you want a healthy, sick free child. Of course, this is a parent's responsibility, not MacDonald s.

    December 7, 2011 at 10:02 | Report abuse | Reply
    • dom625

      Everything we ingest can feed cancer cells, not just sugar. And the body converts excess calories, regardless of where they came from, into fat. So eating too much of anything can pack on fat cells. Sugar and carbs are fine as long as they are eaten in moderation and balanced with physical activity. I wish everyone would cease demonizing carbohydrates!

      December 7, 2011 at 10:28 | Report abuse |
    • Sara

      You are completely wrong! Sugar specifically/directly feeds cancer cells; not everything feeds cancer cells, that is false.
      Just Google sugar and cancer and take a peek and see what you find.

      December 7, 2011 at 10:35 | Report abuse |
    • dom625

      Sugar directly feeds *all* cells. Glucose is the preferred energy molecule for your cells–it readily enters the cellular respiration cycle without needing tweaking. It's not only cancer cells.

      December 7, 2011 at 10:44 | Report abuse |
  18. KinNYC

    Mother banned sweetened cereals when a fight broke out amongst my siblings over those snack pack boxes. Fast forward 30 years. I still enjoy cereal in the morning but prefer a banana on my cheerios or honey on my rice krispies.

    December 7, 2011 at 10:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Joeymom

    Sugar cereals aren't for regular breakfasts, they are a treat, like candy. A good alternative? Oatmeal cookies made with splenda are really great, quick, and the kids think they are having cookies for breakfast!

    December 7, 2011 at 10:12 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Sara

      Not trying to tell you what to feed your kids, but Splenda is highly toxic ans should not be fed to your children.

      December 7, 2011 at 10:15 | Report abuse |
    • Sara

      Not trying to tell you what to feed your kids, but Splenda is highly toxic and should not be fed to your children.

      December 7, 2011 at 10:16 | Report abuse |
    • Fred

      You've GOT to be joking. The key here is eating real food, and I assure you Splenda is not a real food. I'd also like to avoid teaching my kids that eating "trick" cookies for breakfast is a good idea.

      December 7, 2011 at 11:34 | Report abuse |
    • Jax

      Cookies? For breakfast??? Not a good habit for a kid to form. And splenda??? Are you serious? It's poison.

      December 8, 2011 at 10:50 | Report abuse |
  20. davette

    in my house cereal is classified as junk food. even my eight year old will turn it down if has already had a treat that day. Kids are smart and can make good choices if you just sit down and explain it to them. My son was asking for nesquick cereal because he saw a commercial for it. When we went to the store I gave him a box of nesquick and a box of choc cheerios to compare. He chose the cheerios. BTW did you know 8 large marshmellows have less sugar than most kids cereal!?!.....hows that for perspective.....

    December 7, 2011 at 10:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Melissa

    Oh don't worry too much about this... Pretty soon they'll decide sugar-filled cereals are vegetables, too.

    December 7, 2011 at 10:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Bates

    You see people! This why we HAVE TO bring back Mr. T's cereal. Mr. T don't need no sugar in his cereal!

    December 7, 2011 at 10:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. John

    Back in the 70's I would let my daughters buy any cereal as long as sugar was not the first ingredient. At least they learned to read the labels.

    December 7, 2011 at 10:36 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Fred

      NO cereal has sugar as the first ingredient. It's going to be some type of puffed grain.

      December 7, 2011 at 11:36 | Report abuse |
  24. JoeT

    @smartaz : I don't see where you would get the impression any tax dollars were spent on this study, considering its source is a private organization.

    December 7, 2011 at 10:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Kim

    Kids don't get enough protein in their diet, Protein and fat keeps you full for longer, feeding kids a breakfast that's comprised of 75% carbs is NOT the right way to start their day. Eggs, some ham and a cup of fruit would be more nutritious than oatmeal or whole wheat waffles. Which of course, a kid is going to top off with sugary maple syrup so they have some flavor!

    December 7, 2011 at 10:49 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Fred

      Amen. Not to mention those "carbs" are from a processed grain, which isn't a real food.

      December 7, 2011 at 11:37 | Report abuse |
    • Kim

      I posted a link to this article and a high school acquaintance commented on it. I suggested that instead of feeding his kids cereal products for breakfast, that he makes a big panful of eggs, cheese, ham, diced onions and peppers for breakfast, along with some diced fruit and glasses of full fat milk, and to see how long his kids lasted until they started getting hungry for lunch. Would be great if he gives it a try!

      December 7, 2011 at 20:44 | Report abuse |
  26. Fred

    Honey Smacks used to be called Sugar Smacks. "Dig 'em!"

    December 7, 2011 at 11:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Portland tony

    @dom625
    It really doesn't, within reason, matter what kids or anything of us eat for breakfast or any meal for that matter. Obesity or lack of muscle mass is controlled by our daily activities.Try siting at a desk for the entire day without any physical activity. Then rushing home to Tweet your friends, play video games or watch TV. I don't, care if you eat raw oats, you will gain weight. The irony here is that kids who don't have outside PE classes or after school physical activities test no better than those who do!

    December 7, 2011 at 11:45 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Portland tony

      Typo: or anything. should read ...or anyone.

      December 7, 2011 at 11:51 | Report abuse |
    • dom625

      It's nice to know that *someone* sees the light! Too much of anything will make you obese and unhealthy; that's why physical activity is so important. Sugar is not inherently evil–sloth and gluttony are.

      December 7, 2011 at 11:51 | Report abuse |
  28. Owenayuk

    I dont know what to say, but visit http://www.hotbizplanet.blogspot.com for all that you need online with awesome discounts.

    December 7, 2011 at 15:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Bobby

    We put sugar in our kids breakfast cereals.. than we put toxic fluoride in their water to fight the cavaties caused by the sugar. Meanwhile they develop bone cancer from the fluoride, and than we treat the cancer with toxic chemicals.. Go figure that out?????

    December 7, 2011 at 17:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. stephanie

    So it's no wonder that most kids exceed the "maximum discretionary caloric allowance," which is already ridiculous (a quarter of our diet can be cotton candy, according to federal guidelines–see 1:40 at http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/nations-diet-in-crisis/).

    December 8, 2011 at 15:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. annonymous 12 year old

    OH DEAR!!! I'm glad i only eat cheerios and other cereals like that!!! Yes. my meema thinks splenda is great for you and better than sugar.....unfortunatly.

    December 8, 2011 at 18:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. EBMMommy

    There are worse things in breakfast cereal than sugar. Larvae, anyone? http://evidencebasedmommy.blogspot.com/2011/12/now-with-more-protein.html

    December 9, 2011 at 01:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. larry5

    It's just business. They sure don't care about what it does to the children. That's not their problem. There problem is next quarter's profits. Even the sugar they sell has been processed to the point that it is nothing like the source. Remember, if you put any processed food in your mouth you're giving up control of your nutrition to a monster that is very good at making money and little else.

    December 9, 2011 at 01:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Mel

    So sad that there are so many people that could actually think that it could be OK.....to eat whatever and still be healthy. REALLY, you think exercise is gonna save you? With all the additives, pesticides, over processing thats reaking havik on our health! Sugar is addictive.....Period! I see everyday just how it affects my child and the majority of other children. And as parents its our responsibility to teach good eating habits. But that seems to not even matter. Its about eating whatever, who cares if it kills us...Its sure was good.....LOL....Maybe someday we will care more, and hopefully its not too late. Hopefullly GMO's haven't completely overtaken all crops. Amongst many other things!

    December 10, 2011 at 01:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. EBMMommy

    There are a lot of reasons not to overdose your kids on sugar, but hyperactivity is not one of them.
    http://evidencebasedmommy.blogspot.com/2011/12/cuckoo-for-cocoa-puffs.html

    December 15, 2011 at 13:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. IllDrinkToThat

    Nothing wrong with giving them good cereal. At least give them General MIlls, all of it is full of whole grains. Make sure your child is active and make sure they are eating other healthy foods for breakfast like a fruit.
    If you want to limit it, maybe only give it to them on weekends. They can eat the healthier stuff during the week.

    Also, if you don't start off giving it to them everyday, they won't want it everyday.
    Special K with strawberries is tastey and sweet, too. They can have that during the week and a bowl of Cap'n Crunch on Saturday mornings. Sounds like a plan.

    January 11, 2012 at 07:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Cheap Windows Server 2008 key

    Thank you for any other wonderful post. Where else could anyone get that type of info in such an ideal approach of writing? I have a presentation subsequent week, and I'm on the look for such info.

    April 9, 2012 at 00:27 | Report abuse | Reply

Post a comment


 

CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

Advertisement
About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.