More on the obesity front

Candy, kids?


Breakfast quiz:

Kellogg’s Honey Smacks cereal contains how much added sugar by weight?


a)     10%

b)     20%

c)     30%

d)    40%

Answer:  Sorry, trick question. The correct answer is ‘none of the above’, because Honey Smacks is actually more than 50% added sugar by weight.

Now, you’d probably expect that from a cereal with the somewhat misleading word ‘Honey’ in its name. (Remember when they used to be called ‘Sugar Smacks’?  Ah, for those simpler, more bluntly marketed  times of yore…) But Honey Smacks is far from alone in turning breakfast into dessert.

In a study recently released by the Environmental Working Group, two-thirds of the 84 popular cereal brands surveyed exceeded federal guidelines for sugar content. And that includes 25 cereals manufactured by General Mills, which, you may recall, was a “Premier Sponsor” of the recent annual meeting of the American Dietetic Association.

Absolutely unsurprisingly, cereal manufacturers are fighting the federal guidelines–which are voluntary, by the way–tooth and nail. I don’t have a quote from the manufacturers to give you, but if I did it would no doubt run along the lines of cursing the socialist nanny state the U.S. has become,

...and sugar for all.

and reasserting the God-given right of American parents to turn their children into diabetics before they are old enough to vote. (Cue the flags.)

Yes, parents can certainly read the nutrition facts printed on the cereal box and make intelligent nutrition choices, but wouldn’t it be better if they didn’t have to wade through a minefield of unhealthy choices (masterfully marketed to their kids) in the first place? The sad fact is that cereals such as these are mainstays in the diet of many American school kids, and in many areas of the country it’s not easy to find healthy alternatives.

Unfortunately, the Environmental Working Group didn’t include a list of low-sugar cereals, which would be a helpful aid to harried and hurried parents at the market. I’ll try to dig one up and report back.

Do you have a healthy cereal alternative you’d like to recommend?



Filed under Nutrition, Obesity

5 responses to “More on the obesity front

  1. Helen B

    Weetabix, with a thin slavering of real fruit jam (sans high fructose corn syrup) and milk.


  2. Dr. Sloan,
    I have to confess my first month of high school, I ate a bowl of Sugar Smacks every morning (this was before I got a touch a ballet-induced anorexia) until one morning I noticed my pee was orange. TMI again? Now that I’m old, wise, and more sensitive, all breakfast cereals give me the hypoglycemic shakes–I think it’s the combo of carbs and milk? I have to have unsweetened plain oatmeal (cooked or raw) of stick to toast.


  3. I make my own granola a) because it tastes good and b) because it saves money over buying boxed cereals. I’ve fiddled with the recipe a lot and cut the sugar down by about 75% until it was at the perfect level. Here’s roughly what I do (it varies by what I have in my cupboard):

    ~ 20 cups old-fashioned oatmeal (I buy mine in bulk 25lb bags, but one large cardboard container from a grocery store is perfect for a large batch)
    Several cups of nuts
    A package of shredded coconut
    Other goodies, such as wheat germ, ground flax seeds, sunflower seeds, or toasted quinoa

    Pour this syrup over, mix, and bake at 300 until it’s golden brown:
    3/4 cup honey, 1/4 c water, 1/2 canola oil, 1 Tbsp salt, 1 T vanilla extract, and any other flavorings (sometimes almond extract, other times a combination of cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg)

    You can mix in dried fruits after it’s baked. This makes a huge batch and lasts our whole family several weeks.

    When we run out or my husband goes shopping, we usually have plain Cheerios, rice/corn/wheat Chex, or frosted mini-wheats.

    You probably weren’t asking for recipes but this is what we eat! I’ve recently been introduced to steel-cut oats and love them. I also like to have scrambled eggs and am hoping to start making green smoothies on a daily basis for me & the kids (combination of frozen fruit & spinach put in a blender–my kids love it)


    • Sugar Frosted Flakes were big in my house (again, note the truth-in-advertising use of the word ‘sugar’ back in the day…). I have the rows of gleaming gold crowns today as proof.

      I wonder what the sugar content of those cereals was back then as opposed to now? I have a feeling it’s substantially higher today. No way it would be lower.


    • Heavens, Rixa, that’s one big batch! Sounds mighty good, though. I’ll have to spring that on my grown-up kids over the holidays. My wife has introduced me to the wonder of steel-cut oats. I grew up on the gloppy processed stuff (in between vats of Sugar Frosted Flakes) and I swore when I went off to college I’d never eat it again. But steel-cut is a greatly improved version of my childhood gruel. Add some slivered almonds, cinnamon and craisins, and it’s almost enough to get me to swear off cold cereal altogether. Almost.


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