Filed under DUH! Kid’s Cereals Are High in Sugar

Shocking news report today! Cereals marketed to children are high in sugar and low in fiber!

I saw a number of articles on Google News this morning about sugar content in cereal. Apparently Consumer Reports did an analysis of popular cereals among the kiddie set (and probably popular among the teens and adults too). Not surprisingly, they found that many of the cerals were high in sugar and low in nutritional value and/or fiber. At the bottom of the list were such fine choices as Apple Jacks, Corn Pops and Cap’n Crunch.

Honey Smacks and Golden Crisp are both more than 50% sugar. More sugar than a glazed doughnut. And a nice assortment of artificial sweetners and colors plus some big long words that purport to be food. Funny thing about Honey Smacks: If you don’t remember that one from childhood, its because it used to be called SUGAR Smacks. Hello Marketing Genius! Everyone knows honey is much less political than sugar. Just don’t read the ingredient list or you’ll discover the cereal has more sugar and corn syrup than honey.

As a kid, I loooved Cheerios. And Fruity Pebbles but mostly Cheerios. I’ll still eat them now, grabbing a handful from the box to munch on. I also eat frosted shredded wheat (Trader Joe brand is an awesome deal) the same way although in general I don’t eat cereal very often for breakfast or snacking. Fortunately, Cheerios was one of the recommended brands- low in sugar and high in fiber.

Consumer Reports full ratings are available to subscribers only (which I am not) but US News and World Report has some helpful tips for parents looking to boost the nutritional quality of their kid’s morning meal.

I particularly liked the suggestion to be unconventional. Leftover pizza makes an awesome breakfast

Seriously, this should not be news. Walk in to your local grocery store- any of them- and walk down the cereal aisle. If you are less than five feet tall or you ride around in the front seat of a shopping buggy, you only see a world of brightly colored boxes with cartoon characters calling your name and pointing out the awesome prizes in the bottom of the box of candy cereal.

Cheerios might be on the main shelf but even Life and Kix are often relegated to the margins of the average sight-line of a 6 year old. Grape Nuts, Kashi? Please, who wants a boring ole white box with just words on it?

And all you adults who thinking you are being smart n’ healthy with your Special K? Pay no attention to the HFCS behind the curtain.

Things I don’t understand

I don’t understand why we (this country) criminalize marijuana and why we demonize people who are addicted to drugs but we continue to put High Fructose Corn Syrup in everything.

Marijuana is allegedly a gateway drug.  And of course, people who abuse drugs are sometimes desperate souls who will do anything, even commit murder, to get their next high.  So smoking pot, even recreationally** is treated as a serious crime requiring probation, incarceration and intensive treatment.

Actually I do understand why and its pretty messed up.  Thanks to the food industry and pressure on the government from mega corporations like Archer Daniels Midland and Coca-Cola, foreign sugar has high tariffs slapped on it when its imported for straight sale on the grocery shelf or added to all the processed food/junk we eat here.

Americans pay over twice as much for sugar as other countries because of these tariffs.  HFCS has also come to be loved by corporations because its easier to move around.

Here is the part I really don’t get: why is High Fructose Corn Syrup in some products at all. For instance, the chicken from the other night- I used bread crumbs from a cannister.  Didn’t even occur to me to check for HFCS. But there it was, along with corn syrup and sugar.  Come on! Its bread crumbs for pete’s sake!  Today, I dumped them out and bought some Panko crumbs.  They do still have “less than 2% of the the following: sugar, ….” but no HFCS.  Next time I need regular bread crumbs, I’ll just make them- lightly toast (or let it dry out for a few hours) a couple slices of bread, tear in to pieces and whirl around in the blender or food processer to desired consistency.  And yes, I do make sure my bread is free of HFCS.

High Fructose Corn Syrup has been linked, by numerous studies, to the increase in obesity in this country.  And this country is getting fatter and more unhealthy all the time.  Of course we should exercise more and probably eat less in general.  But what to do about this insidious addiction?  Because studies are showing that even the use of artificial sugar substitutes does nothing to stop your body’s craving for sweeter and sweetest.  In fact it can make things worse!  And if you are now putting HFCS in everything, even not sweet foods what does that do to our inherent sweet tooth?  You needed that sweet-loving sensitivity back in caveman days when sweet tasting plants were probably safer to eat than bitter or hot ones. But now?

Vernors was originally sweetened with stevia from 1866 to 1991. Then the FDA banned stevia in 1991 and the company replaced stevia in their drinks with HFCS.  I’m not a huge Vernors fan unless I have a stomach ache but this really saddens me. Vernors is the oldest soft drink in America and it was invented right here in Michigan!  If you aren’t familiar: Vernors is ginger ale.

I didn’t know stevia had been banned, since I recently bought some.  Apparently it must be marketed as a dietary supplement. Odd that I found it in the baking aisle, hmm.  It seems there was an anonymous complaint made to the FDA in 1991 and they tagged the product as an “unsafe food additive.”  Despite numerous requests the FDA has never divulged the source of the complaint.
Especially interesting is the fact that Coca-Cola and Cargill have worked together on a stevia-derived sugar substitute and are in the process of getting FDA approval for that (as of 2007).   This patented chemically-derived substitute could be seen in your supermarket soon, filling your sodas and your twinkies and your breadcrumbs (probably).

But Stevia, the all-natural, naturally occuring (i.e. no patent necessary), grown and used for centuries in South America without ill effect, found to be not harmful by a massive World Health Organization comparative study, might actually improve insulin resistance and reduce the risk of diabetes stevia?   Oh that is still banned in food.

I should probably point out that I’m on page 3 (yes, page three) of Food Politics by Marion Nestle and I’m already pissed off.  Its going to be a fun week reading this one, while also reading about defamation to help my law-school boy.  When I’m done, I should pretty much know exactly what I can and can’t say on this blog!

**um, something I don’t actually do- smoking in general just brings back some bad childhood memories no matter what leafy substance we are talking about.