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Consumer Reports Rates Nutritional Winners and Losers

Oct. 1, 2008 -- Cereal can be a great choice for a quick and nutritious breakfast, but some choices represent the nutritional equivalent of a doughnut in a bowl, according to a new investigation from Consumer Reports.

The group evaluated 27 of the breakfast cereals that are most heavily marketed to children, considering not just their sugar content, but also the amount of sodium, fiber, calories, and nutrients in a recommended serving.

Two of the worst-rated cereals -- Post’s Golden Crisps and Kellogg’s Honey Smacks -- were more than 50% sugar with very little fiber.

A serving of Honey Smacks has 15 grams of sugar -- 3 more grams than is found in a Dunkin’ Donuts glazed doughnut. Golden Crisps has 14 grams of sugar in a 3/4 cup serving and less than 1 gram of fiber.

In all, 11 of the tested cereals had 12 or more grams of sugar per serving, or as much as the glazed doughnut, Gayle Williams of Consumer Reports Health tells WebMD.

“Parents who would never give their children doughnuts for breakfast may be choosing these cereals without knowing that from a nutritional standpoint they really aren’t much better,” she says.

The Nutritional Winners

Four of the tested cereals were judged "Very Good" breakfast choices because they were relatively low in sugar and sodium, had some fiber, were high in iron, and were good sources of calcium.

None had more than 9 grams of sugar, less than 2 grams of fiber, or more than 210 milligrams of sodium per serving. They are:

  • Cheerios (General Mills), with just 1 gram of sugar, 3 grams of fiber, and 190 milligrams of sodium.
  • Kix (General Mills), with 3 grams of sugar, 3 grams of fiber, and 210 milligrams of sodium.
  • Life (Quaker Oats), with 6 grams of sugar, 2 grams of fiber, and 160 milligrams of sodium.
  • Honey Nut Cheerios (General Mills), with 9 grams of sugar, 2 grams of fiber, and 190 milligrams of sodium.

Consumer Reports Medical Advisor Orly Avitzur, MD, tells WebMD that any of these cereals, served with milk and a piece of fruit, represents a good breakfast choice.

“These cereals offer fiber and nutrients and they are not full of sugar, which is just empty calories,” she says.

“Americans are consuming about 15% more added sugars than they did 25 years ago, and over that time the percentage of overweight or obese adults has grown from 47% to 66%. During roughly the same time the number of overweight children in the U.S. has doubled.”

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