Would you ever think about giving your child Twinkies or chocolate chip cookies for breakfast? According to a study done by the Environmental Working Group, many kids cereals are just as sugary as dessert.
Covered in colorful packaging and plastered with words like "whole grain" or "great source of Vitamin D" the children's cereals seem to promote health. However, one serving of cereals like Kellogg's Honey Smacks, Post Golden Crisp, and General Mills Wheaties Fuel contains more sugar than the 18 grams packed into a Twinkie. A shocking 44 children's cereals like Apple Jacks and Cap'n Crunch contain more than the 11 grams of sugar in three Chips Ahoy cookies.
In an effort to fight the increasing rates of childhood obesity, a panel of scientists and experts met in Congress and created nutritional guidelines for foods marketed to children. Only one in four cereals met these proposed guidelines, meaning that three in four kids' cereals should not even be marketed to children. Cereal, food and beverage companies have been lobbying against these guidelines, which are to take effect in 2016.
Keith Ayoob, associate professor of pediatrics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, believes child obesity should not be blamed on cereal: "Cereal is a great vehicle for whole grains, low-fat milk, and fruit- something that is lacking in children's diets." He suggests adding more protein to a cereal breakfast with a hard-boiled egg, and eating whole fruits instead of juice, which can be loaded with sugar.
Ayoob points to research indicating that cereal eaters tend to have lower body weights and tend to do better in school and says, " Their is no one single food that contributes to obesity, what contributes to obesity is excess… which is created by eating too much."
With all of the new research and information available to parents, the decision of what to buy for your family can be daunting. For parents who are still worried about the sugar content in these cereals, Ayoob recommends mixing a higher-sugar cereal and a lower-sugar cereal.
More importantly, he suggests parents look at their own eating habits: "Parents set the rules of the household of the family. Parents needs to follow the rules themselves. They are powerful role models whether they want to be or not. Breakfast as a family is important."
Click here to see the Environmental Working Group's full report and list of sugary cereals.