Too much sugar in children’s breakfast cereal


Millions of kids eat packaged cereal every morning for breakfast. These boxes are not as benign and health giving as they appear to be. Cereals contain so much sugar, they ought to be fired from the supermarket shelves altogether. Parents, wake up and read the labels. Most breakfast cereals that we feed our kids contain a little too much sugar. Manufacturers are infamous for pumping cereals with large quantities of sugar and chances are they don’t care for the health of our children.

Sugar is toxic

A bowl of high sugar cereal to start your day with can hardly be considered healthy, even though the shiny packaging will always try and have you believe otherwise. The number of cases of childhood obesity and deaths caused by excess sugar worldwide is rising. Excess sugar in your children’s diet can do all of the following: make them fat, change the body’s metabolism, mess with their hormones, increase blood pressure and weaken the liver. Sugar is toxic and why breakfast cereal should be as sweet as sugar candy with a whopping 35% sugar content is questionable.

Sugar is addictive

Studies say that the biggest risk of a diet high in sugar is that it leaves you craving for more and you are left to pick up the pieces when your weight goes completely out of whack, to say nothing of the myriad other health problems along the way. Take note of one more thing: if you or your children eat sugary cereal for breakfast, then most probably you are hungry and tired early in the day. Foods high in sugar have a high glycemic index which means they break down quickly, making your blood sugar levels soar. They will drop as quickly as they rise leaving you craving for another hit of sugar. Another thing to look out for is the word “fortified” (with synthetic vitamins, nothing less) or even the message that vitamins have been “added” to make it nice and healthy, sugary though it be. That’s just a cunning ploy to take your attention away from the facts. Same with “low fat”. When cereal boxes scream out these messages, that’s when we need to be suspicious.

Labels are encoded, but they may tell you something

Here is a clue to reading the label: look for the typical values per 100 grams. Then look at the figure which says “sugar”. If it is more than 15%, put it back on the shelf and walk away from it.

Below is an example of what a 40 gm serving of cereal contains according to a children’s nutrition specialist from the British Dietetics Association:

Teaspoons of sugar per serving: 3½.
Teaspoons of sugar when you add milk: 5¼.
Calories with milk: 233.
Fat per 100g of cereal: 2.5g.
Salt per 100g: 0.75g.
Sugar per 100g: 35g.

Her verdict: “Marketed as being so chocolatey it ‘turns the milk brown’, this cereal is sweetened with sugar and chocolate to provide a huge 35 per cent sugar content. This is as much as you would get in an average sized chocolate bar, so you are effectively having a Dairy Milk bar in every bowl. The energy rush and plummet you would get from something this sugary means you’d be hungry again by mid morning.”

What a con job. The worst part is we fall for it and think we are serving our children well.

Nanditha Ram
Nanditha Ram is a Reiki master and yoga and wellness coach, holistic therapist, and writer, living and working in New Zealand.