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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.