Last week, General Mills made a dramatic splash in nutrition circles when it announced it would reduce the amount of sugar in its cereals for kids to “single digit” levels. While sugar reduction is commendable, it still does not make the cereals a good choice for breakfast. And the decrease is not substantial enough. Some cereals have already seen their sugar content lessen by 1 gram or 2 (8%-15% decrease), but cereals are still at the 3-teaspoon-of-sugar per serving level.
Take Lucky Charms as an example. “Magically delicious Lucky Charms cereal features frosted oats and colored marshmallows.” Why should kids be getting marshmallows for breakfast every morning? Aren’t these treats reserved as occasional treats for roasting over a fire at summer camp or a family outing?
We took a deeper look inside Lucky Charms to find out just how good they are for our children.
What you need to know:
This is the ingredient list for Lucky Charms:
Whole Grain Oats, Marshmallows (Sugar, Modified Corn Starch, Corn Syrup, Dextrose, Gelatin, Calcium Carbonate, Yellows 5&6, Blue 1, Red 40, Artificial Flavor), Sugar, Oat Flour, Corn Syrup, Corn Starch, Salt, Trisodium Phosphate, Color Added, Natural and Artificial Flavor. Vitamin E (Mixed Tocopherols) Added to Preserve Freshness. Vitamins and Minerals: Calcium Carbonate, Zinc and Iron (Mineral Nutrients), Vitamin C (Sodium Ascorbate), a B Vitamin (Niacinamide), Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine Hydrochloride), Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin), Vitamin B1 (Thiamin Mononitrate), Vitamin A (Palmitate), a B Vitamin (Folic Acid), Vitamin B12, Vitamin D3.
OK. Whole Grains – great. Whole grains are an important source of fiber. So can someone explain why there is only 1 gram of fiber per serving here? A good cereal should have 5 grams of fiber or more.
The ingredient list goes downhill from here.
Marshmallows colored with artificial colorants that are associated with hyperactivity in children (Yellow #5, Red 40).
Sugar and Corn Syrup – 11 grams worth – which is just under 3 teaspoons. Would you put 3 teaspoons of sugar into a cup of milk for your child?
Salt – there are 190mg of sodium in a single serving. That’s a lot, almost 10% of the daily recommended value. You wouldn’t expect cereal to have so much salt because it’s not a flavor you can really taste masked under all that sugar.
Trisodium phosphate (TSP) – an additive from phosphate rock. Is also used as cleaning agent before painting. Ay!
The list of added minerals and vitamins is certainly impressive, but most people in the US are not deficient as to need the fortification supplied through a sugary cereal. Additionally, you have to ask yourself, why are we artificially adding nutrients to food. Shouldn’t we get nutrition directly from the source? Not a lab?
Summary – this is not a great start to a day.
Here’s a suggestion to General Mills – Show the world you are really serious about health. Not by taking insignificant baby steps, but through bold leadership. How about killing off unhealthy brands such as Lucky Charms, Cocoa Puffs, and Trix, and spending the marketing dollars on formulating and introducing healthier brands?
Oh, and one last thing – The little bribes inside the package are the absolute worst for parents. Toys and movie ticket coupons become tools in a child’s persuasion machine, as if the we didn’t have enough difficulty trying to get them to eat healthier food.
What to do at the supermarket:
It’s sad, but you really need to steer clear of any cereal your kids get excited about. If it’s colorful and features comics and superheroes, you’ll be serving your children sugar and food colorings for breakfast, not food.
Rice Chex and Regular Cheerios are better options from General Mills because they don’t have artificial coloring and virtually no added sugar. You can always stir in a spoonful of honey and your kids will be happy.
Watch out for cereals such as Fiber One with 0 grams of sugar. They are artificially sweetened, and you don’t want your children consuming any of those chemicals.
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