Guest blog: A Surprise in Your Cereal Box?

Parents want their children to start the day out right, especially during this time of year when kids are heading back to school. For many families, that often includes a bowl of cereal.

A spoonful of sugar for every three spoonfuls of cereal is not what most parents want their kids to find in their cereal box! But if you are feeding them popular cereals like Lucky Charms for Frosted Flakes, that’s what they are eating.

The cereals most marketed to children are also the ones that serve up the most sugar, according to a new report from the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity.

While cereal companies chose to aggressively market unhealthy, sugary cereals to kids, most companies also have much healthier cereals in their product lines, the report finds. That’s why is working with the Rudd Center to ask cereal companies to promote healthy cereals to kids.

The cereals marketed to kids are far less healthy than those marketed to adults. They have 56 percent more sugar, half as much fiber and 50 percent more sodium. That’s certainly not a healthy way to start the morning, especially considering the fact we are in the midst of the childhood obesity epidemic. More than one-third of children are now overweight or obese, putting them at risk for conditions such as Type 2 Diabetes, hypertension and even some cancers.

Even though most popular kids’ cereals are still poor in nutritional quality, companies aren’t boxed in. They also make healthy cereals that they could market to kids. They just choose not to.

That’s why we’re asking Fed Up with Lunch readers to join us in encouraging companies such as General Mills, Kellogg’s and Post to promote healthier options to kids. Tell them to promote cereals such as regular Cheerios, Unfrosted Mini-Wheats or Shredded Wheat over Trix, Frosted Flakes, Pebbles and other products loaded with sugar.

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day! Let’s work together to make it a healthy one, too.

 Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch is the senior writer and editor for, an online advocacy network of people dedicated to reversing childhood    obesity. A project of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, connects leaders across the childhood obesity movement with hundreds of thousands of supporters in advocacy efforts to implement policies that will help reduce childhood obesity nationwide. 

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7 thoughts on “Guest blog: A Surprise in Your Cereal Box?

  1. Just wanted to mention that ‘Lucky Charms for Frosted Flakes’ sounds like an amazeballs cereal. Lucky Charms for Chocolate Frosted Flakes would be even better!

  2. I had a good laugh/mild bit of outrage at the new GM cereal commercials, which now show their products made with more whole grain! In these commercials, they do a close-up of the ingredients. The second ingredient, clearly shown, is sugar!

    I’ve recently started eating cereal after a few years of not. I chose the kashi golean crunch with almonds because I like the protein to keep me full until my lunch 6 hours later. Still has a ton of sugar in it, though at least it’s sweetened with honey which is something I can both pronounce and identify.

  3. We have cereal at my house (eaten about once a week), but I do choose healthier types for me and my son. How to choose, given different portion sizes (some almost twice as large as others), can be tricky. Somewhere I read, no more than 5 grams of sugar per 100 calories. This seems like a good criterion. Simple calculation, adjusts for portion size, and I have added the additional criterion of at least half as much fiber as sugar. And I don’t differentiate between types of sugar. Nutritionally, most sugar is the same. Even honey is not that much better, especially when processed into something like cereal.
    It’s amazing what does, and doesn’t, pass. Most granola does not (too much sugar). Raisin bran doesn’t (WAY too much sugar). Plain cheerios and cornflakes do, of course — but some types of cheerios don’t. Some granola does (though it’s high cal, so we mix it with other stuff). And you have to check every flavor. Quaker Oatmeal Squares regular flavor passes, but the cinnamon variety doesn’t.

    1. My nutrition professor in college said that we should only get cereal that has at least 3 grams of fiber per serving, though I have heard from another dietician that you should look for ones that have 5 grams. I’ve checked all the cereals that I regularly buy and except for Special K and Rice Krispies, they all have at least 3g. Very few of them have 5g, though. I’m willing to occassionally eat the ones that don’t have 3g since they are a minority of what I eat. I think buying only ones that have 5g would require that I shell out significantly more for cereal than I currently do. I may have to start checking out the sugar content too, though I don’t think that the ones that I buy are especially sugary.

  4. It’s hard to even find some of the healthier cereal options at the store. I was just at our mondo Target grabbing a few things to tide us over before a major grocery shop and they literally had NO unsweetened cereal. No plain Cheerios, no Shredded Wheat without frosting, no Grape-Nuts, nothing. It was a bizarre experience realizing that the cereal aisle is basically another candy aisle.

  5. When we go on our yearly week-long summer visit to a place where we stock our own kitchen, we allow the kids to pick whichever sugar cereal they want for that week and that week only. By day 3 the Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Cap’N Crunch and Lucky Charms has lost its sugary appeal, and they happily go back to their everyday cereals. (Generic versions, usually, of Cheerios and Rice Krispies, Rice Chex, Corn Chex, Life, cornflakes.)

    My secret? Once in a very blue moon I will purchase and hide a box of Cap’N Crunch way in the back of the top pantry shelf and that is MY stash. I’ll have a bowl with ice cold milk for dessert. There’s something luxurious about its particular milk-soaked crunch, and the fatty residue it leaves on the roof of your mouth. Sigh. I might need some soon.

  6. ALL cereal (even organic) is highly processed. You can google a lot of info about it, but one of my favorite articles with the most information is on The Healthy Home Economist Website. Just search “Toxic Cereal” – – – Needless to say, after researching & learning all about it, our family no longer eats boxed cereal. Nope.

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