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by Christel Swasey

Are Twinkies Healthier Than Popular Children’s Cereals?

Nutrition news flash:  it’s smart to switch from Honey Nut Cheerios to Chips Ahoy, for breakfast.

The kids will be ecstatic!

I read a study yesterday that was done on 84 popular children’s cereals, by a group called Environmental Working Group (EWG).  The group did what we all should be doing.  They actually read the nutrition information on the back of the package, and thought about what it really meant.

The study found that many cereals fail to meet the federal governments “proposed voluntary guidelines” on sugar content, by a long shot.  These cereals are more sugary than most desserts— literally.  There’s more sugar in a Twinkie than in a cup of Kellogg’s Honey Smacks.  There’s more sugar in a cup of Honey Nut Cheerios than in three Chips Ahoy chocolate chip cookies.

Who would have guessed such a thing?  I’ll be letting the kids know that we’ll be serving twinkies from now on, rather than Honey Smacks (or its generic store brand twin).

Seriously, this is breakfast.  Do we not fear sugar addiction, dental disasters, diabetes or other diseases in our children –or in ourselves?

The very worst cereal in the study was Honey Smacks.  You know the one– it’s puffed wheat, which seems healthy.  It features a cute frog on the Kellogg’s packaging.  But it’s the worst offender for sugar– worse than Froot Loops or  Cap’n Crunch.

Honey Smacks is 56% sugar.  That means that when we eat this “puffed wheat,” we are actually eating mostly sugar, not mostly wheat.  Gross.

The EWG suggested serving cereals that not only contain less sugar, but also contain no artificial sweeteners (like sucralose or aspartame) and also no artificial colors and flavors.

BEST CHOICES

The best choices are usually lesser-known brands that not all stores carry, but if consumers ask our grocers to carry them, they usually will.  (Examples:  Laughing Giraffe, Nature’s Path Organic, Kaia, Go Raw, Ambrosial Granola) The EWG also gave out a list of better choices for big-name cereals, but with a caution that these big name cereals on the list, while lower in sugar and free of artificial colors, flavors, and sweeteners, may not be pesticide-free.  (Examples:  original Cheerios, Kellogg’s mini-wheats, Post Grape Nuts Flakes,  Post Shredded Wheat)

Many nutritionists suggest looking for cereals that feature a short ingredient list,  have a high fiber content (this means the factory hasn’t removed most of the healthy portions of the grains), and contain few sugars, including corn sweeteners, sucrose, lactose, glucose, high- fructose corn syrup and malt syrup, honey, molasses, fruit juice concentrate, and brown sugar.

Oddly, cereals that are healthier are usually found on the top shelves of the cereal aisles, where they are not at kids’ or even adults’ eye level.

WORST CHOICES

Top cereals to avoid, unless you are serving them for dessert:

1 Kellogg’s Honey Smacks 55.6%
2 Post Golden Crisp 51.9%
3 Kellogg’s Froot Loops Marshmallow 48.3%
4 Quaker Oats Cap’n Crunch’s OOPS! All Berries 46.9%
5 Quaker Oats Cap’n Crunch Original 44.4%
6 Quaker Oats Oh!s 44.4%
7 Kellogg’s Smorz 43.3%
8 Kellogg’s Apple Jacks 42.9%
9 Quaker Oats Cap’n Crunch’s Crunch Berries 42.3%
10 Kellogg’s Froot Loops Original 41.4%

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