Breakfast Cereal: The Marketing of Sugar

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It’s not often you see an advertisement for Shredded Wheat, All Bran, or low-sugar organic cereals. What you do see, in a very repetitive and aggressive way, are ads for high-sugar, low-fiber content cereals. You know, Trix (Trix are for kids!), Lucky Charms (they’re magically delicious), Corn Pops, and Cap’n Crunch (one of my childhood favorites).

Those Saturday morning cartoons may entertain the kids and even delight a few adults but they also offer up unhealthy choices in the form of commercials. A new study, conducted by the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University, shows that cereals marketed to our children have 85 percent more sugar, 65 percent less fiber, and 60 percent more sodium, not to mention the additional unnecessary calories that they add to the breakfast bowl.

The study, released over the weekend, provided a wealth of information on both the content and marketing of cereals in this country. Using a nutrient profile system and reviewing marketing data for the popular cereal brands, researchers found that the average preschooler sees 642 cereal ads per year on television. Eleven of the thirteen cereals advertised most to children on television are also marketed heavily on the internet, with not one of them qualifying for inclusion in the USDA WIC Program.

The Top 10 advertised cereals to children with the poorest nutrition content were: Reese’s Puffs, Corn Pops, Lucky Charms, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Cap’n Crunch, Trix, Froot Loops, Fruity and Cocoa Pebbles, Cocoa Puffs, and Cookie Crisp.

Of course the food companies are fighting back. General Mills spokeswoman Heidi Geller says kids who eat cereal more frequently, including pre-sweetened cereals, "tend to weigh less than kids who eat cereal less frequently — and they are better nourished." Given that General Mills has the highest number of brands marketed directly to children (8) and the highest amount of money spent on marketing those cereals ($107 million per year), it’s not surprising that they are trying to spin this in a positive light.

Look for cereals that have 10 grams or less of sugar per serving and look at the serving size, which varies.  Cereal bowls, when filled, tend to be twice what the average serving size is (3/4 to 1 cup), meaning that your child is getting twice the amount of sugar than you intended. And many go back for seconds, compounding the issue.

GoodGuides http://www.goodguide.com/ provides the world's largest and most reliable source of information on the health, environmental, and social impacts of the products in your home. It has a good cereal ranking system, and also allows you to filter by the following topics:

Environmentally Friendly

  • Organic
  • Low In Sugar
  • Low In Sodium
  • Low In Cholesterol
  • Low In Saturated Fat

The Top 12 ranked cereals on GoodGuides are:

  1. Nature's Path Puffed Millet, Organic
  2. Barbara's Bakery, Cereal Shredded Wheat
  3. Vita Spelt Flakes
  4. Food For Life Ezekiel Cereal, Original, Organic
  5. Arrowhead Mills Puffed Wheat
  6. Grape-nuts, Flakes Cereal
  7. Post Spoon Size Shredded Wheat Cereal
  8. Honey Bunches Of Oats, Cinnamon Clusters Cereal
  9. Cheerios, MultiGrain
  10. Wheaties
  11. Total
  12. Chex Corn


For more information on this report, you can go to CerealFacts.org


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