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Sugary kids cereals are in the news again. A follow-up study from Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity concluded that although manufacturers have made kids cereals a little more nutritious, they’re aggressively marketing their least-healthy options to kids.
But what about your cereal? You should know to scrutinize the foods you feed to your children, but do you have any idea how much sugar is in your own?
Many of the seemingly most healthy cereals on the market have more sugar than any kids cereal. Manufacturers often add several spoonfuls of sugar per serving to make up for bland but nutritious ingredients like bran, oats, and other fiber-filled whole grains that fill you up…
- Oatmeal Crisp Hearty Raisin (General Mills): 19 grams of sugar per serving
- Raisin Bran (Post): 19
- Raisin Bran Crunch (Kellogg’s): 19
- Raisin Bran (Kellogg’s): 18
- Raisin Bran Cinnamon Almond (Kellogg’s): 18
- Low-Fat Granola with Raisins Multi-Grain (Kellogg’s): 17
- Smart Start Strong Heart Toasted Oat (Kellogg’s): 17
- Total Raisin Brand (General Mills): 17
- Oatmeal Crisp Crunchy Almond (General Mills): 16
- Selects Blueberry Morning (Post): 16
A sugary perspective
First, let’s compare those numbers to those of a few notoriously sweetened kids cereals…
- Fruit Loops (Kellogg’s): 12 grams of sugar per serving
- Frosted Flakes (Kellogg’s): 11
- Cinnamon Toast Crunch (General Mills): 10
- Cookie Crisp (General Mills): 9
Now, here’s the American Heart Association‘s budget-minded take on how sugar directly affects your health and your waistline…
Many people consume more sugar than they realize. It’s important to be aware of how much sugar you consume, because our bodies don’t need sugar to function properly. Added sugars contribute zero nutrients but many added calories that can lead to extra pounds or even obesity, thereby reducing heart health.
If you think of your daily calorie needs as a budget, you want to “spend” most of your calories on essentials to meet your nutrient needs. Use only left over, discretionary calories for ‘extras’ that provide little or no nutritional benefit, such as sugar.
For the average person, the AHA recommends…
- Women: Limit added sugar intake to 100 calories (about 6 teaspoons, 6 sugar cubes, or 30 grams) a day
- Men: Limit added sugar intake to 150 calories (about 9 teaspoons, 9 sugar cubes, or 45 grams) a day
So if a woman eats a bowl of cereal with 15 grams of sugar per serving, she’s eating half her daily sugar allowance. And since serving sizes are usually 3/4 to 1 1/4 cup – less than many bowls hold and many people eat – she’s probably eating more than half.
The sticky part
Two factors can skew the amount of sugar a cereal (or any other food) has. So when you read the label, consider…
- The serving size. To compare one cereal’s Nutrition Facts to another’s isn’t apples-to-apples if serving sizes differ. Of course, whether a serving size is 3/4 cup or 1 1/4 cup, 16 grams of sugar is still a big chunk of your daily allowance.
- Natural vs. added sugar. Not all sugars are equal. The American Heart Association warns against added sugar, which is what it sounds like: any of various forms of sugar that has been added to a food product. Sugar also occurs naturally in some foods, meaning Mother Nature builds it in. Carbohydrates like fruits (including dried fruits like raisins) contain natural sugar, for example.
To find out whether the grams of sugar listed on food’s Nutrition Facts come from natural or added sugar, read the ingredients. Any form of sugar listed among the ingredients is added sugar.