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Many Kids' Cereals Loaded With Sugar: Report

Some Cereals Have Sugar Content of Cookies, Snacks

Sugary Cereals: More Industry Weigh-In

Lisa Sutherland, PhD, vice president of nutrition for Kellogg North America, says the company has reduced the sugar in U.S. kids' products by about 16%. "Our most popular kids' cereals have 4-12 grams of sugar, so parents can choose the cereal that best meets their families' needs," she says.

Sutherland says it is important to remember that ''cereal contributes less than 4% of the added sugar in the U.S. diet.'' Children who have cereal for breakfast, whatever the sugar content, have healthier body weights than kids who don't eat breakfast or eat other foods, she says, citing a study published in 2011 in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine.

In a statement, Jody Menaker of Quaker Oats says the company offers consumers ''a wide range of wholesome breakfast options," including Quaker oatmeal and lower-sugar instant oatmeal, for those wanting to reduce sugar.

Menaker concedes that Cap'n Crunch is ''not marketed as a health product" but that it has been on the market a long time and some people enjoy it. It does include essential vitamins and minerals, she says.

Sugary Cereals: Perspective

Some kids' breakfast cereals are like ''milk-covered candy in a bowl," says David Katz, MD, MPH, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center.

He reviewed the findings for WebMD but was not involved in the research.

In their ads, cereal makers tend to focus on the other features of cereals, besides the sugar, he says, such as emphasizing the added vitamins and minerals.

He says parents don't always have to be the food police in keeping their kids away from sugary cereals. When kids are taught ''how advertising manipulates them, and learn some skills to look out for themselves, they are quite capable of rejecting such products on their own," he says. 

How to Reduce Breakfast-Time Sugar

Shop smarter for cereal, Pestano suggests. Examine the nutrition label. "Avoid anything that has more than 5 grams of sugar per serving."

Try adding fruit to cereal that has a low sugar content, he says.

Click here to see the entire report.

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