Do We Want Kids Starting the Day with a Bowl of Sugar?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
We’ve all heard how “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” and that it’s critical to give your kids a healthy meal before they head to school each day.  You’d think that cereal would be a good choice:  pair it with some milk, a piece of fruit, and they’ve got a well-rounded meal, right?  Well, not necessarily, especially if you’re not paying close attention to the label on the cereal box.  A new report shows that most cereals marketed to children do not meet voluntary federal nutrition guidelines.  Many have too much sugar, others have too much salt, not enough whole grains, etc.   Buyer beware…..

The report, published by the Environmental Working Group, reviewed 84 popular kid’s cereals.  They found that many top brands contain more sugar per serving than dessert.  For example, “Kellogg’s Honey Smacks, at nearly 56 percent sugar by weight, leads the list of high-sugar cereals, according to EWG’s analysis.  A one-cup serving of Honey Smacks packs more sugar than a Hostess Twinkie, and one cup of any of 44 other children’s cereals has more sugar than three Chips Ahoy! cookies.”  Not the best start to the day, is it?
If it’s something your kids love, there are a few big-brand children’s cereals that meet the federal guidelines for sugar, sodium, saturated fat and whole grain content:
  • Kellogg’s Mini-Wheats: Unfrosted Bite-Size, Frosted Big Bite, Frosted Bite-Size, Frosted Little Bite
  • General Mills Cheerios Original
  • General Mills Kix Original
According to the report, there are other “adult” cereals that meet the nutritional guidelines for a healthy breakfast.  (Click the link above to read about those in more detail.)
It’s possible to give your kids a healthy breakfast that they enjoy and doesn’t take tons of time to prepare.  Some of the popular options in my house include:  scrambled eggs, oatmeal, French toast, pancakes (I use a whole-grain mix that makes it easy) and peanut butter toast.  I usually serve it with some fruit and a glass of milk and they are all set with a healthy meal.   Looking for more ideas?  Check out Quick and Healthy Breakfast Ideas, How to Pick a Healthy Breakfast Cereal, and Members Share Their Favorite Breakfasts
Do the results of this report surprise you?  Whether you have kids or not, what healthy and quick breakfast choices work well in your home?

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I remember the cereal ads from when I was young and when my son was young as well. The child sat with juice, toast, and the cereal bowl.... I always thought that the cereal part was the throwaway part of the ad... there was already fruit, milk and toast, with peanut....who needed the cereal part?

Breakfast in the cold Canadian winter, 1/2 cup oatmeal [not the instant pouched sugary kind either, as quick oats are better], 2T ground flaxseeds, 11/2 cups milk microwaved for 3 minutes... with a fruit

Summer, yogurt, fruit and one toast with peanut butter Report
Not surprised one bit. I used to eat sugar cereals as a kid all the time. I still have a sweet spot for Cinnamon Toast Crunch, but I am lucky if I have it once a year. My staple breakfast is oatmeal, eggs or toast now.
My kids were only allowed sugary cereals during out annual beach trip. They'd spend what seemed like hours drooling over the thousands of choices in the supermarkets. My kids now remember those days fondly and admit that they didn't really like the bowl of sugar milk.
I also remember that the Kix cereals used to be much much lower in sugar. Then one day the box announced that they were "moving the sweet taste from the inside to the outside and nothing else had changed." But I had a box of the inside and sugar had moved up the list of ingredients to number one. Report
This blog is so true, I remember when I was young, my mother never left us have cereal for breakfast unless she was preparing oatmeal. Report
My mom would sometimes buy us a box of Frosted Flakes or Honeycomb, but since we would eat the entire box (all four of us) in one morning, she refused to buy it regularly. We had Cheerios and then Honey Nut Cheerios when those came out. Sometimes we had puffed rice cereal. Report
No surprise there! I have four kids (teenagers now). The oldest doesn't eat cereal at all. The younger three have the choice of Cinnamon Life, Kashi's Strawberry Fields, or Erewhon's Raisin Bran. I have to admit, though, cereal is not their breakfast of choice. They prefer scrambled eggs and whole wheat toast, or a whole wheat bagel with whipped cream cheese, or oatmeal with bananas. Still, being teens, they don't always have breakfast, or they'll grab a Kashi cereal bar on their way out to the bus. I keep yogurt and fruit always handy, but they seem to prefer those as an after-school snack instead of at breakfast. Report
The worst part is many of these cereals are served at school! I think it is so ridiculous, they promote eating breakfast, make time so you can have it at school and then serve garbage! I try to convince my daughter not to choose the unhealthy cereals when she is at before school care but I don't think healthy always wins...but sometimes it does...or so she says... Report
can't believe I ate those garbage as a child. Report
Surprised there is large amounts of sugar in cereal??? No, how else would the cereal manufacturers get kids to want to eat flakes and o's floating in a bowl of milk???!!! Report
I agree with this article wholeheartedly. Cereal is not usually a breakfast in my house, it's often a snack in the afternoon. If my kids want anything sweet, they can mix a little bit in with plain Cheerios. They are usually just as happy with sliced bananas in their cereal, though.

The real problem isn't those kids who eat at home in my community. It's the fact that they all eat at school for free, and the schools feed them CRAP - calorie rich and processed! All kinds of scary Frankenfoods, and those very same sugary cereals! My daughter is NOT allowed to eat at school, and since they do "breakfast-in-the-classroom" AFTER the day starts, her teachers are given a choice. You can personally make sure to monitor that my child is NOT getting any of that garbage, or we will bring her to school 15 minutes late so that you are done eating! Report
As a parent of three kids, those results don't surprise me one bit. My children eat a huge, balanced breakfast (cereal of the lower-sugar variety, yogurt, banana sometimes with PB, toast and milk or apple juice for my one who needs to have meds that can't be dissolved in milk.) that provides them with energy to get through the morning. However, I've talked with other parents and I know what other kids are, and are not, eating for breakfast. And when I chaperone on field trips I am appalled by what parents send as "lunch." It truly is not one bit surprising to me that this country has the obesity epidemic it does. Report
not super surprising.
i bring a1/4C cottage cheese 1%, with grapes and a cup of soy milk. keeps me full for at least 2 hours or more. not sure kids would eat that? Report
lots sugars Report
No surprise at all; kids love sweet things. Report
Sugar in breakfast cereals has been an ongoing problem. I remember when the companies broke down their sugars into three or four different types so "sugar" wouldn't be the first ingredient; it would, however, be numbers 2-4. There's no truth in advertising, and not always enough in labels. Report
It really was a great hit for the Archies, though. Report
We never had sugar cereals in my house growing up - I usually ate Just Right, or Cheerios or Corn Flakes. However, when I spent the night at friends' houses, I couldn't WAIT for morning so I could go to town on their Cap'n Crunch, Fruit Loops, or Frosted Flakes - I would seriously eat two or three bowls. Then I would get home and beg, beg, beg my parents to buy us some sugar cereals. I'm glad they always said no! And now I eat kale and avocado for breakfast! Report
I checked the box of cheerios for how many grams of sugar.. It has only 1 gram of sugar..I dont think thats bad at all.... Report
As a kid, the only cereal my mother ever bought was corn flakes. We were allowed to put a little bit of sugar on it but that's it. We would have eggs, panckaes, or sometimes soup for breakfast. I never tasted fruit loops or that other stuff until I was in college and I found it unbearably sweet. parents need to take control of what their kids are eating--you know--be the parent and stop bending to your child's each and every whim. Report
Not surprising to me either. We actually try to get Kashi when it is on sale. Other than that we have carrots and apples and homemade bread for breakfast. Report
This not a surprize at all. it's a well known fact how high in sugar kid's cereals are these days. When I was a kid (back in the Dark Ages), I'd routinely put 3 or more teaspoons of sugar onto my cereal ! that's what you did back then. Today, I am trying to be more aware of what I put into my body. Read the labels on the most popular kid's cereals and you'll see at least 10-20grams of sugar per serving. That's probably higher than the amounts in cereal when I was a kid, but that's still too much.

I think the cereal companies make us feel that their product is "healthy" because its packed with vitamins and minerals. What's frightening is that that bowl of cereal may be a child's only access to those vitamins and minerals. Of course, I'm appalled at they charge for cereal. the prices are just as outrageous as the sugar content.
I know its not funny or appropriate but I couldn't help but have that scene from MASH when Hawkeye poured a beer into his bowl of cereal pop into my head....... Report
Most cold cereals are eaten by single males 18-34, so I've read. But, I never allowed my five children to buy junk cereal when they were small and NOT paying for it themselves. I bought Cheerios and Oatmeal. Guess what? They still eat those two now that they are adults. Report
Well duh! This isn't new news. My mom used to laugh at me and my brother when we'd show her junk cereals we wanted and that was in the 70's. Then she'd make a snarky comment saying "if the kids like it don't buy it" the only junk food that was occasionally allowed was kraft macaroni & cheese, and she bought that very reluctantly. Report
My mother ALWAYS told me this.....and that's why I only got sugared cereal on the weekends!!! Report
And, when you start the day off wrong, your whole day goes haywire. Report
I was completely unexposed to the sugar laden berakfast cereal before college, growing up with Cheerios, shreded wheat, and other simalar cereals. At college, I discovered that a few Froot Loops or Apple Jacks mixed with a bowl of Cheerios was a tasty dessert. Now I have Cheerios in the cupboard as a snack item - I find that milk and cereal do NOT keep me full to lunch. Report
Not surprising to me. I used to use cereals as my desserts in the past before cleaning up my diet. Honey Smacks, Froot Loops and Corn Pops....mmmm....

I never thought of them as breakfast though. Breakfast is oatmeal, cornmeal porridge, Cream of Wheat, toast with jam/butter/peanut butter, hardboiled eggs, sausages baked with a drizzle of honey...mmmm....Kids today are SO getting short-changed! *LOL* Report
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