Better Cereal Choices For Kids?

Some child-focused products are 50 percent sugar

Courtesy of Consumer Reports

Are you one of those adults who keep a box of Frosted Flakes or Froot Loops hidden in the cupboard? Such sugary cereals are heavily marketed to children, to the tune of about $229 million advertising dollars per year. But an estimated 58 percent of “children’s” cereals are consumed by the over-18 crowd.

Whether you’re shopping for actual or overgrown kids, we found four cereals with kid-focused marketing that scored Very Good in our new nutrition rating system, based on product label information. Cheerios, Kix, Honey Nut Cheerios (all General Mills), and Life (Quaker Oats) earned points for relatively lower sugar and higher dietary fiber, the two categories we weighed as most important. Cheerios topped the list with only 1 gram of sugar and a healthful 3 grams of fiber per serving.

The bad news is that 23 of the top 27 cereals marketed to children rated only Good or Fair for nutrition. There is at least as much sugar in a serving of Kellogg’s Honey Smacks and 10 other rated cereals as there is in a glazed doughnut from Dunkin’ Donuts. Two cereals, Kellogg’s Honey Smacks and Post Golden Crisp, are more than 50 percent sugar (by weight) and nine are at least 40 percent sugar. And that’s not the only issue. Although Kellogg’s Rice Krispies has only 4 grams of sugar per serving, it got only a Fair rating, largely because it is higher in sodium and has zero dietary fiber. Kellogg’s Frosted Mini-Wheats Bite Size earned a healthful cereal score of Good; it has 12 grams of sugar per serving but is also very low in sodium and has a hefty 6 grams of fiber.

Six cereals bowls with different cereals in each


SWEET CHECK  Our new nutrition Ratings can help you decide which cereals to consider and which to skip.

If you’re going to buy one of these kids’ cereals, we recommend you pick one that is rated Very Good. See our oatmeal Ratings for more breakfast choices.

Our nutrition Ratings (available to subscribers) are based on the serving size recommended on the label, but is that what people actually eat? We studied how 91 youngsters, ages 6 to 16, poured their cereal and found that, on average, they served themselves about 50 to 65 percent more than the suggested serving size for three of the four tested cereals. If the kids ate the entire average amount of Frosted Flakes they poured for themselves, they would get about 18 grams of sugar per serving. With Kix, the kids poured portions closer to the recommended serving size. The puffed corn balls are big and light, so the serving size (1¼ cup) is larger than for most other cereals.

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