Kids’ Cereal: Slight Improvement. Long Road Still Ahead

Kids Cereal Aisle

photo: Yale Rudd Center

The Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity recently released its 2012 report entitled Cereal F.A.C.T.S. Three years after their original report on the state of advertising to children, researchers report “Limited progress in the  nutrition quality and marketing of children’s cereals”.

The original report had some staggering figures:

Cereal products marketed to children contained 85% more sugar, 65% less fiber, and 60% more sodium than products marketed to adults. Preschoolers, on average, were exposed to 635 cereal ads on TV in 2008, or 1.7 ads every day.

There were some changes in the years since, but not all were for the better.

The good:

  • 13 of 16 cereals had improved their nutrition profiles, albeit slightly, by removing a gram of sugar, 10% of sodium, or by adding slightly more fiber.
  • Some forms of advertising were reduced, for example gamevertising websites.
  • TV advertising to preschoolers dropped by 8%.

The bad:

  • Advertising for specific brands, the worst nutritionally, increased by tens of percents: Froot Loops by 79%, Trix by 29%
  • Media spend to promote child-targeted cereals increased by 34%.
  • New, brand specific websites for kids emerged, for example for guess which cereal…

Bottom line: In 2012,  cereals advertised to children still contain 56% more sugar, 52% less fiber, and 50% more sodium compared with adult-targeted cereals. Cereal manufacturers have a golden egg that they will not easily let go of.

The researchers at Rudd conclude that the commitment by manufacturers leads much to be desired – “Cereals that contain one spoonful of sugar in every three spoons of cereal are not healthful products that children should regularly consume.” They urge the big 3 companies – Post, Kellogg’s, and General Mills to drastically cut advertising of kids cereals, and find ways to promote the consumption of the healthier products, currently not aimed at kids.

What to do at the supermarket:

Whether child or adult, look for cereals with 6 grams or less of sugar, and 3 grams or more of fiber. If your kids complain, add a teaspoon of honey yourself, at home.

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  • Bill

    There is really no compelling need to eat cereal at all.  How about just skipping it and opting for some eggs and fruit.  Maybe some oats or a slice of toast with butter or cream cheese if you really want the grains.  

  • Home Cooked Healthy

    We rarely do cereal either.  I’m hard pressed to find a healthy cereal that I feel good about feeding our son.  Instead we do eggs, toast, oatmeal, fresh fruit and yogurt.  All of these are just as quick and easy as pouring cereal in the bowl and adding milk.  Another fast tip is to take a healthy pancake recipe that we use on our site, freeze them then bake in the oven as needed. It only takes about 10 minutes to warm these back up.  Top with fresh fruit and real maple syrup or a homemade sugar-free fruit syrup – perfect for quick mornings.

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