The Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at Yale University just released their 2012 report on cereal.

You may remember I wrote about their 2009 findings in A Spoonful of Sugar?  But even if you don’t remember, you probably won’t be surprised by the new findings.  Compared to cereals advertised to adults, the cereals aimed at kids contain:

  • 56% more sugar
  • 52% less fiber
  • 50% more sodium

Believe it or not, that’s an improvement.  Back in 2009 cereals geared to children had 85% more sugar, 65% less fiber and 60% more sodium than cereals targeted to adults.

There’s a lot to be learned from (read: appalled by) reading the report.

For instance, media spending to promote child-targeted cereals totaled $264 million in 2011, an increase of 34% versus 2008.

But that’s not what bothers me the most.

What gets me is how cereal manufacturers trade on the healthy image of one cereal to sell you another cereal that’s way more inferior.

Let’s take Cheerios for instance.

The Rudd Center assigned every cereal a score from 0 (very poor) to 100 (excellent) which takes into account the cereal’s entire nutrition profile (and conveniently called the score the Nutrition Profile Index or NPI).

Regular Cheerios get an NPI of 70. In contrast:

  • Apple Cinnamon=50
  • Banana Nut=46
  • Chocolate=46
  • Cinnamon Burst=52
  • Frosted=46
  • Fruity=48
  • Honey Nut=46
  • Multigrain=56
  • Multigrain Peanut Butter=48
  • Oat Cluster Crunch=50
  • Yogurt Burst Strawberry=46

You probably don’t need Yale to tell you that Chocolate Cheerios aren’t all they’re cracked up to be, but Honey Nut Cheerios?  Come on General Mills. Most parents I know think of Honey Nut Cheerios as nutritious. But with a score of 46, Honey Nut Cheerios are in the lower half of the range, and right down there with Chocolate Cheerios.  And with Cocoa Puffs (44).  And not too far from Trix (42).

  • Regular Cheerios have 1 gram of sugar per serving.
  • Honey Nut Cheerios have 9 grams of sugar per serving.  That’s 2 more teaspoons of sugar.

You don’t need Yale to tell you which cereals to buy.  And you don’t need to read nutrition labels either.

All you have to do is think about your kids’ habits.  Want them to develop more of a hankering for sugar? Go for the sweetened stuff.  Want them to be more receptive to broccoli? Shoot for less sweet flavors instead. Read Why Toddlers Don’t Eat Vegetables.

If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck…Anything that tastes like a treat should be used like a treat.

Believe it or not, I’m not against sugary cereals.

Sugary cereals have their place in the diet, but it’s usually in the snack drawer. Or in my case, the summer vacation drawer. Read Why I Feed My Daughter Inferior Food.

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~