Lucky Charms [Inside the Label]

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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  • http://www.betterschoolfood.org Dr. Susan Rubin

    Here’s a question about those so called “vitamins”. Where do they come from? Is it true that they are petrochemical derivatives?
    Perhaps the bottom line for all ingredients needs to be: where did they come from?
    It changes the conversation from nutrition, but maybe that’s where it needs to go. These cereals boast health claims due to the chemical vitamins that are sprayed on them, I’m not so sure that its health for our kids or for our planet.

  • http://www.psychiclunch.com Psychic Lunch

    I can’t believe that major corporations like General Mills have the audacity to say that they even remotely care about customers’ health while they produce such heavily-processed foods. What amazes me even more is that the general public still flocks to buy their cheap foods because money might be tight. (Apparently GM’s revenues are very “up” even since last year). It’s absolutely possible to create a healthy product and still show a profit, as can be seen by the many health-oriented business out there. Even GM has bought out some of them, such as Muir Glen.

    As further evidence that profit is possible with healthy food maneuvers, major corporations (such as Coca-Cola, WalMart, Mars) have re-engineered their products to remove artificial colors and other additives for European markets. (source: The Unhealthy Truth by Robyn O’Brien)

    They just DO NOT care about people, and are lying when they say they do.

  • W

    I was about to buy some Krogers brand ’100% natural granola with honey’ when I noticed it contained partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. What is natural about hydrogenating oil? It had 2g of trans fat per serving. I’d rather stay with Cheere’Os. At least they have a short ingredients list.

  • http://www.betterschoolfood.org Dr. Susan Rubin

    Hey W!
    Ditch the boxed cereal and make your own granola. It’s super easy.
    Here’s a simple recipe:
    http://www.drsusanrubin.com/rubin-rodeo-granola/

  • soby

    hi my kids wants to eat that cereal but they can’t because it has Gelatin, can plz let me know wat kind of Gelatin, it has

    • Allison Wanamaker

      there is only one kind of gelatin. A similar consistency can be gotten from vegetable starches, but they would have to list them as such, not as gelatin. All gelatin is derived from animal products.

  • David

    Trisodium Phosphate? Why does cereal contain TSP, a cleaning agent?

  • Ron

    Well, General Mills, just why do you use Trisodium Phosphate in your cereal?