Release date 10/01/2008
YONKERS, NY — A new nutrition Ratings report from Consumer Reports finds that some breakfast cereals marketed heavily to children are more than 50 percent sugar by weight, and only four of the 27 cereals studied rated Very Good.
Consumer Reports found two cereals, Post Golden Crisp and Kellogg’s Honey Smacks, that are more than 50 percent sugar and nine which are at least 40 percent sugar. And 23 of the top 27 cereals marketed to children rated only Good or Fair for nutrition. Consumer Reports notes that there is at least as much sugar in a serving of Kellogg’s Honey Smacks and 10 other rated cereals as there is in a glazed doughnut from Dunkin’ Donuts, which contains 12 grams.
The article, which appears in the November issue of Consumer Reports, also notes that several cereals sold in the U.S. have more sugar and sodium than the same brands sold overseas.
Cheerios (General Mills) topped Consumer Reports' Ratings with three grams of dietary fiber per serving and only one gram of sugar, the two categories that Consumer Reports weighed as most important. Kix and Honey Nut Cheerios (both General Mills) and Life (Quaker Oats) also were relatively lower in sugars and had higher dietary fiber. All four of these cereals rated Very Good.
In addition to high sugar content, Consumer Reports notes that sodium is also an issue. For example, Kellogg’s Rice Krispies has only 4 grams of sugar per serving but rated only Fair, largely because it is higher in sodium and has zero grams of dietary fiber. The lowest-rated cereals – both also garnering only a Fair rating – were Kellogg’s Honey Smacks, with 15 grams of sugar, and one gram of dietary fiber per serving; and Kellogg’s Corn Pops, with 12 grams of sugar and zero grams of dietary fiber per serving.
“If you’re shopping for a kids’ cereal, try one of the Very Good cereals in our Ratings,” says Gayle Williams, deputy editor, Consumer Reports Health. “Be sure to read the product labels, and choose cereals that are high in fiber and low in sugar and sodium. Served with milk and fruit, these cereals can be part of a well-balanced, nutritious breakfast.”
Consumer Reports' Ratings are based on product label information concerning nutrition and recommended serving size, though the report points out that many children pour more than the portion size suggested by the manufacturer. An outside lab confirmed the accuracy of label data, except for the newly reformulated Kellogg’s cereals, which Consumer Reports did not have tested. Consumer Reports studied how 91 youngsters, aged 6 to 16, poured their cereal and found that, on average, they served themselves about 50 to 65 percent more than the suggested serving size for three of the four tested cereals. For example, if kids ate the entire average amount of Frosted Flakes that they poured for themselves, they would get about 18 grams of sugar per serving – as opposed to the 11 grams per serving listed on the cereal box.
More sugar in U.S. cereals
Consumer Reports was part of a 32-nation study, sponsored by International Consumer Research & Testing and Consumers International, which found that some cereals sold in the U.S. had more sugar and sodium than their overseas counterparts. For example, Honey Smacks sold in Germany, Slovenia, and Switzerland are made up of about 40 percent sugar, compared with 55 percent sugar in the U.S. product. Consumers International is calling on the World Health Organization to develop international guidelines that would restrict advertising and marketing of foods high in sugar, fat, or sodium to children.
Consumer Reports nutrition Ratings are based on scores for energy density (the calorie concentration for the amount of food) and nutrients, including fat, saturated fat, trans fat, sodium, sugars, iron, calcium, and dietary fiber. High dietary fiber is 5 grams or more per serving. A level of 1 teaspoon of sugar per serving was assigned for low sugar. Low sodium is considered to be 140 milligrams or less. All cereals were lowfat. The nutrition score reflects a balance between the amount of beneficial nutrients, such as fiber and calcium, and those that should be limited, such as sugar, sodium, and fat.
What you can do
Consumer Reports notes that kids (and adults) who eat breakfast have better overall nutrition, fewer weight problems, and better cognitive performance throughout the day. Cereals are convenient and can be a good source of whole grains. Served with milk and fruit, the lower-sugar varieties can be part of a well-balanced, nutritious breakfast.
For consumers who can’t make the switch to a low-sugar cereal, Consumer Reports suggests using smaller bowls or single-serving sizes to limit overpouring and potentially overeating.
The full report on cereals and nutrition Ratings is available in the November issue of Consumer Reports, on sale October 7, 2008 or online at www.consumerreports.org.