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Are you Feeding your Kids Twinkies for breakfast?

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Popular children’s cereals are overloaded with sugar, according to a new study.

By Posted Dec 12, 2011

Twinkies for breakfast We all know it’s the sugar in children’s cereals that makes them popular. And cereal makers, more than anyone, are aware of the singular appeal of sugar amid the myriad of ingredients in today’s breakfast cereals.

Parents may indulge their children with sugary cereals from time to time, but most parents would forbid a breakfast diet of Twinkies or chocolate chip cookies. But according to a new study by the Environmental Working Group, they may be unknowingly feeding their children the equivalent amount of sugar.

Breakfast cereals have come a long way from Cheerios, Wheaties and Rice Krispies. I remember when Frosted Flakes first came out – corn flakes dipped in sugar – and suddenly breakfasts were a lot more fun. I bonded with Tony the Tiger. Back in the day this seemed the height of decadence for morning fare, and our parents had to hide the box after we had our allotted one bowl, once or twice a week.

Well, the parents were wise to put limits on this breakfast confection. A one-cup serving of Frosted Flakes, the study reports, is packed with 14.7 grams of sugar per cup, the same amount of sugar in four Chips Ahoy! cookies. Of the top ten most sugary cereals listed in the study, Frosted Flakes stands at #9. And of the 84 children’s cereal brands studied, 44 brands had more sugar per cup than three chocolate chip cookies.

The three most sugary cereals, Honey Smacks, Wheaties Fuel and Golden Crisp, each contain over 18 grams of sugar per 1 cup serving, which is about 56% of sugar by weight. This is about five teaspoons of sugar – the same amount as a Hostess Twinkie, and more than 5 chocolate chip cookies. And with today’s oversized cereal bowls, a typical serving size is likely to be double that amount, or closer to two cups of cereal.

Here are the Top 10 Most Sugary and Top 10 Least Sugary breakfast cereals noted in the study:

Top 10 Most Sugary Breakfast Cereals:

  1. Honey Smacks ~ 20.0 grams/cup
  2. Wheaties Fuel ~ 18.7
  3. Golden Crisp ~ 18.7
  4. Cocoa Crispies ~ 16.0
  5. Oh!s ~ 16.0
  6. Cap’n Crunch Original ~ 16.0
  7. Cap’n Crunch OOPS, All Berries ~ 15.0
  8. Fruity Berries, Cocoa Berries ~ 14.7
  9. Frosted Flakes Original ~ 14.7
  10. Cap’n Crunch Chocolately Crunch ~ 14.7

Top 10 Least Sugary Breakfast Cereals:

  1. Cheerios ~ 1.0 grams/cup
  2. Rice Krispies Gluten Free ~ 1.0
  3. Rice Chex ~ 2.0
  4. Kix Original ~ 2.4
  5. Corn Chex ~ 3.0
  6. Rice Krispies Original ~ 3.0
  7. King Vitamin ~ 4.0
  8. Honey Kix ~ 4.8
  9. Wheaties ~ 5.3
  10. Berry Berry Kix ~ 5.6

When choosing cereal brands at the supermarket, it’s helpful to know that 4 grams of sugar equals 1 teaspoon. When you read the nutrition label on the back of the box, a cereal like Cap’n Crunch, which contains 16 grams of sugar per cup, is the equivalent of 4 teaspoons of sugar per cup.

Eating habits during the childhood years can affect a child’s learning, mood and physical condition. With childhood obesity at an all-time high in the US, choosing breakfast cereals with lower amounts of sugar is especially important. Cereals can be sweetened naturally with fruits which provide nutrition and make the cereal more fun for kids. And low-fat milk provides a fitting complement for healthier choices in cereal brands.

Ideally, a child can be taught this simple equivalency, 4 grams of sugar = I teaspoon sugar. Once they understand the consequences of eating so much sugar, you might be surprised when your child chooses the less sugary brand, and helps make the decision easier for you.


Cereal image via Bigstock.

Posted in Food and Health Tags , , ,
  • My daughter, like many other kids, loves sugary cereals and when she asks for them she knows she can have them but they have to be mixed in with cheerios never by itself, which is fine with her.

    • Greg Seaman

      Good solution. Mix in Cheerios or other low sugar brand to dilute the sugary ones.

  • priyanka

    it is useful to my kid also.thanks for giving great information.

  • Vanessa

    If you give them healthier options they’ll take them!

  • blondebomber

    This is a horrifying reality. Parents are just so complacent with meals and think its convenient to shove a bowl of sugar in front of their child’s face. When, really, they could shove a bowl of something healthful in front of their face just as easily.Thanks for the fascinating article.

  • Ellis

    Wow! Sooo much sugar. Maybe ADD is not the only cause of the hyperactivity in school children today.

  • jon

    Cheerios…my little nephew loves it even it is not that sugary as compared to other cereals.

  • Sugar is a drug for sure… fruit is the way to go! 🙂


  • We have never given our son sugary cereal.  He doesn’t eat much with milk but loves to eat Kix and Cheerios dry for a snack or even a dessert Sometimes he eats Rice Krispies and does so without sugar added on top. Those are times when I do it too. Its not as bad as you’d think.

  • Great post! Thank God I stopped feeding my kids with these sugary cereal long time ago. I am still amazed at the number of people still doing this these days. Articles like these should be written and shared with as many people as possible. 

  • Homiecode

    I’d rather give my son a shot of tequila for breakfast than sugar marinated flakes, he would at least be more social on the school bus.  In all seriousness, even if you withhold Froster Flakes from them, they still get introduced to these processed junk breakfasts by friends.  So challenging. 

  •  @milkmen:disqus I totally agree with your comments regarding the average American diet, especially with kids today. We never really had many snacks in the house growing up. When we did they were healthy snacks such as fruits, vegetables, and rice cakes.

  • Shaira Sandra Villacorte

    I am guilty of this.  Sugar is most likely going to close your appetite to good solid foods. 

  • jsun124

    Sugar is white death! There seems to be so much evidence linking it to diabetes. It weaks havoc in all areas of your body affecting your brain health. I read recently that it creates a lot of acidity in your body. The excess acidity leaches calcium from your bones to reduce it.

  • Not to mention the negative effects of that sugar on your children’s teeth!

  • Superb Idea described in one line ie:4 grams of sugar = I teaspoon sugar, thanks for sharing. You made the work of a mother much Easir.

  • Great info! I realized it’s not easy to start good habits. But I am very happy, that our kids begin to love fresh fruits for their breakfast 🙂

  • jennifer

    Don’t buy it and they can’t eat it. There are other options beside cereal for breakfast. These are your kids people… convenience isn’t always a good choice. How about some oatmeal and fruit. Boil some eggs ahead of time… a boiled egg and some blueberries… or banana… or any fresh fruit. Toast with some peanut butter is better then most of these cereals. Plain yogurt with.. again… fresh fruit and granola… there are endless options

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