Dec. 7, 2011 -- If you think giving your child cereal for breakfast ensures a healthy start to the day, check the label.
Many kids' cereals are loaded with sugar, according to a new report that looked at 84 cereals.
"In our study, three cereals have more sugar than a Twinkie,'' says Paul Pestano, MS, a research analyst at the Environmental Working Group, which issued the report. ''Forty-four others have more sugar in one cup than three Chips Ahoy cookies."
The Twinkie-equivalent cereals are Kellogg's Honey Smacks, Post Golden Crisp, and General Mills Wheaties FUEL, according to the EWG report. Honey Smacks is nearly 56% sugar by weight, Pestano says. That's more than double the maximum recommended by voluntary federal guidelines.
The study is titled "Sugar in Children's Cereals: Popular Brands Pack More Sugar Than Snack Cakes and Cookies."
In response, cereal makers say they have reduced sugar content in some products, giving people a choice.
Overall, just one in four of the cereals evaluated meet the voluntary guidelines on sugar proposed earlier this year by a panel of federal nutrition scientists and marketing experts. The panel, the Interagency Working Group on Food Marketed to Children, was convened by Congress in response to the childhood obesity epidemic. One in five U.S. children is obese.
The panel has proposed that children's cereal contain no more than 26% added sugar by weight. (It also has guidelines about sodium, saturated fat, and whole-grain content.) Industry guidelines allow more sugar, up to 38% by weight.
Breakfasts high in sugar have been linked with poorer attention and school performance.
Others on the ''worst'' list and their sugar content:
Kellogg's Froot Loops Marshmallow, 48.3% sugar
Quaker Oats Cap’n Crunch OOPS! All Berries, 46.9%
Quaker Oats Cap'n Crunch Original, 44.4%
Quaker Oats Oh!s, 44.4%
Kellogg's Smorz, 43.3%
Kellogg's Apple Jacks, 42.9%
Quaker Oats Cap'n Crunch's Crunch Berries, 42.3%
Kellogg's Froot Loops (Original), 41.4%
Kids' Cereals: Healthier Options
Cereals making the EWG "best" list meet guidelines on sugar and other ingredients. These cereals also are free of pesticides and genetically modified ingredients. Most are lesser-known manufacturers:
Ambrosial Granola: Athenian Harvest Muesli
Go raw: Live Granola, Live Chocolate Granola, and Simple Granola
Grandy Oats: Mainely Maple Granola, Cashew Raisin Granola, and Swiss-Style Muesli