News flash! Kids’ cereal has lots of sugar in it, and – are you ready for this? It may not be good for you.
The Environmental Working Group released a study detailing the amounts of sugar in popular children’s cereals, noting that many of them have more sugar than a Twinkie. A Twinkie! Could they have chosen a more perfect icon for junk food? (photo source)
When I heard on Nightline that a shocking study turned up evidence that cereal (in all its whole grain goodness) may not be as healthy as we thought, I was waiting for something new and exciting, something I could really sink my teeth into. Imagine my disappointment when the study simply stated the obvious.
Yes, friends, children’s cereals, the pink, the marshmallowey, the frosted; the honeyed, the glazed, and the kinds where sugar is listed as the first or second ingredient, do, in fact, have a great deal of sugar in them. In fact, some are weighing in at over 50% sugar.
I think I missed my chance to be on Nightline.
By my figuring, my trusty calculator and I could have run some sugary numbers and written a study that announced to the world that cereal has too much sugar in it, and I might have even gone so far as to draw the conclusion that it’s not healthy for you. (Gasp!)
And I bet you could have done the same.
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See, with the help of my feisty readers who petition General Mills to quit marketing junk cereals to kids (see below for more on that), we already knew cereal was bad for you.
The cereal companies, not surprisingly, do not agree.
Lisa Sutherland, vice president of Kellogg North America Nutrition, admits – with pride, of course – that, “Cereal with milk is a leading source of 10 nutrients in U.S. children’s diets.” (source)
What I read in that sentence is that there are a great many children who are malnourished – not underfed, not low on the scales – but clearly not receiving real nutrients from the food that passes their lips, if cereal is their top source of nutrients. I hear nothing about the health benefits of cereal and everything about the poverty of diet we Americans are experiencing.
Is cereal just a great way to get fruit into kids? (photo source)
Is EWG’s Study Wrong?
Don’t get me wrong here – certainly, I’m poking some fun at the fact that this sugar thing is big news. It’s not. BUT I’m still thankful that the EWG (Environmental Working Group) brought the scrutiny of the public eye to the question of cereal, and their facts are sure to shock many.
Sure, Honey Smacks might not be a surprise as a cereal with more sugar than a Twinkie, but how about Wheaties Fuel? It was also on the worst offenders’ list, and that label sounds like it’s trying to be healthy, but clearly it fails (and not just because of the sugar).
Honey Nut Cheerios was another big name that I think folks think of as a “lightly sweetened” healthy cereal – often fed to children – and it made the list of “more sugar than 3 Chips Ahoy cookies.”
Sugar has no place in our morning meal, particularly not so much of it. And really, sugar is bad for you, all the time, so it has no place in any meal and possibly not even dessert. (But maybe we can get away with making Smart Sweets…)
Let us hope that the EWG’s efforts do bring a spotlight not only to the overload of sugar in the American child’s diet (and the adults’) but also to the lack of true nourishment these sometimes obese children are receiving.
Why is Cereal Bad for You Anyway?
We traditional foods folks, who know that cereal wasn’t eaten thousands of years ago or even 150 years ago, know that your best breakfast options aren’t going to be discovered by following the formula for the “right” cereal box.
First, grains might not be so healthy for humans, period.
Third, almost all cereals are extruded, a process that further damages the fats in whole grains, making them downright toxic. (Check about halfway down this post for what extrusion is and how it damages whole grains in cereal.)
Therefore, EWG’s only problem with their report is that after all their research, they still recommend cereal (about 10 out of the seemingly thousands available) as a healthy breakfast option.
So What Should we Eat for Breakfast?
The funniest part of the whole thing, in my opinion, was a line from Brian Williams on Nightline, loosely quoted:
“This report is making cereal look so bad it’s almost to the point where bacon sounds like a healthy breakfast in comparison!”
Yeah. Because bacon has the scarlet “X” on it from the health police.
Be an Advocate for Healthier Breakfasts
Your mission, if you choose to accept, is to advocate for change. Make SOMETHING happen that you care about.
I’ve taken some time lately to write some letters, make some calls, and advocate for change. The examples I’m going to share are food and natural health related, but please know that I place a lot more importance on topics of faith and morals as a general rule.
I’ve written about that before, too, but I’ve had a bug in my bonnet about the medical issues when Jonathan was born and was encouraged by many readers to write letters. So I am.
- After readers encouraged me on Facebook, I wrote a letter to Gymboree about the candy breaks in the sports class for my 3-year-old. The local manager cut that routine, all because of one email from me.
- I wrote a letter to the hospital where I gave birth about the sugar water given as routine pain relief to my newborn. It’s posted here.
- I called the labor and delivery floor to recommend they include prices when they offer medications to new mamas…so others can avoid paying out-of-pocket for things like $42 Dermaplast spray (for stitches) that runs about $5 at Walgreen’s.The nurse on call was shocked about the prices and really sounded like she might make some systemic change.
- I also told my OBGYN that he might counsel his patients to bring their own spray and OTC pain medications like Tylenol or Motrin.
- I’m working on a letter to the editor about the rampant health care costs in the nation and how I think what I talked about above is one of the big problems, encouraging others to avoid unnecessary medical spending (even if their insurance pays for it, because ultimately, we all do).
Need More Baby Steps?
Here at Kitchen Stewardship, we’ve always been all about the baby steps. But if you’re just starting your real food and natural living journey, sifting through all that we’ve shared here over the years can be totally overwhelming.
That’s why we took the best 10 rookie “Monday Missions” that used to post once a week and got them all spruced up to send to your inbox – once a week on Mondays, so you can learn to be a kitchen steward one baby step at a time, in a doable sequence.
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