Monday, January 25, 2010

Tribune on Sugary Cereals

The Chicago Tribune says that big cereal companies are not keeping their promises to market healthier products to kids.

"Sugar content may have been reduced, but it is still high. Some cereals are up to 43 percent sugar. And because most people pour more than one 3/4-cup serving into a bowl, the amount of sugar consumed is often at least twice the amount listed on the box.

"Making incremental changes in the ingredients to an unhealthy product doesn't make it healthy," Harris said. "General Mills makes a big deal about whole grain in their cereals, but most of the products have 1 or 2 grams of fiber and more sugar than whole grain. It makes people think the product is healthier than it is."

General Mills stands by its assertion that sweetened cereal such as Cocoa Puffs can be a nutritious way to start the day when served with skim milk."

In addition to talking about the obvious nutritional pitfalls of the cold cereal aisle, the article delves into companies' marketing schemes, and how children are specifically targeted:

"Parents, of course, can say "no" when their children beg for sugary cereal. But it's hardly a level playing field, as there is virtually no marketing of healthy food to kids, said Dale Kunkel, a professor of communications at the University of Arizona and a member of the Institute of Medicine's Food and Nutrition Board.

A child would have to watch 10 hours of television before she saw one ad for healthy food, Kunkel said. "During that same time they'd see 75 other ads, 55 in the poorest nutritional category," he said.

Young children, meanwhile, don't understand that advertising information is biased or that the ads are trying to persuade them to do something, Kunkel said.

"Children hear ads the same way we hear a news reader on CNN," he said."

(Sounds like less T.V. would solve a lot of cereal battles!)

I've mentioned before that the American Heart Association now suggests women limit their added sugar intake to no more than 6 tsp. a day (and 9 tsp. a day for men).

Since 4 grams of sugar is equal to 1 tsp, and many of the cereals in question contain around 12 grams of sugar per serving, even if children were limiting their portions to the serving size, they'd be having at least 3 tsp. of added sugar in their first meal of the day alone - and very little of nutritional value to go along with it. Frightening!

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