Ten Worst Breakfast Cereals

New research confirms what consumers have long known – most breakfast cereals advertised to children are full of sugar.

Cereals marketed to kids have 85 percent more sugar, 65 percent less fiber and 60 percent more sodium than those aimed at adults. In fact, the least nutritious cereals are often the most heavily marketed to children, such as Reese’s Puffs, Corn Pops, Lucky Charms, Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Cap’n Crunch.

Some cereals with the poorest ratings even have health claims on the box.

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera has written a letter to the CEO of Kellogg’s, demanding evidence that Cocoa Krispies really "helps support your child’s immunity" as it purports to do on the front of the box.

Cocoa Krispies are 40 percent sugar by weight. A Kellogg’s company spokesperson, Susanne Norwitz, argued that Kellogg’s Krispies cereals provide consumers with 25 percent of their daily value of vitamins A, C, and E.

Kellogg began making the immunity claims about Cocoa Krispies in May, however as of November 4 said they’re pulling the claim from the box.

Meanwhile, the average preschooler sees 642 cereal ads a year on TV. Most are for types with the worst nutrition ratings.

According to Cereal FACTS (Food Advertising to Children and Teens Score), which was developed based on the best available science, in consultation with a steering committee of experts in nutrition, marketing, and public health, the 10 worst breakfast cereals based on nutrition score are:

1. Kellogg – Corn Pops (or Pops) – Chocolate Peanut Butter 2. Quaker – Cap’n Crunch – w/ Crunchberries 3. Kellogg – Special K – Chocolatey Delight 4. Kellogg – Special K – Blueberry 5. General Mills – Reese’s Puffs 6. General Mills – Fiber One – Caramel Delight 7. Kellogg – Cocoa Krispies – Choconilla 8. General Mills – Golden Grahams 9. General Mills – Cinnamon Toast Crunch 10. Kellogg – Corn Pops


Dr. Mercola’s Comments:

How can Kellogg’s Cocoa Krispies, which is one of the 10 worst breakfast cereals out there, get away with putting a giant slogan across the front of their cereal boxes claiming this sugar-laden nutritional disaster will help support your child’s immunity?

The cereal is 40 percent sugar by weight … and sugar can suppress your immune system and impair your defenses against infectious disease.

Telling parents that they are doing their child’s health a favor by allowing them to eat this, or practically any children’s cereal, is akin to letting them sit down to a plate full of Twinkies and Oreos and calling it a balanced meal.

Fortunately, Kellogg has been receiving criticism from parent groups and nutritionists alike ever since it launched the far-fetched claim, and as of November 4 said they are pulling it from their cereal boxes.

Kellogg was criticized for playing up the cereal’s imaginary immunity benefits in response to the H1N1 flu craze, which the company denied.

Yet, rather than admitting the claim was way beyond a stretch of the truth, Kellogg has said it’s pulling the claim “given the public attention on H1N1.”

But immunity claims or not, if you really want to look out for your child, one of the first steps would be to immediately get rid of any cereal, particularly if it has a cartoon character on the box, as children’s cereals are notoriously bad for children’s health.

Children’s Cereals Are Nutritional Disasters

Breakfast cereals, which were initially developed to increase convenience, have mostly morphed into nothing more than highly processed sweetened grains sprinkled with synthetic vitamins. They are a mere fantasy of a healthy food, and I don’t recommend you eat any cereal for breakfast on a regular basis – including those that are marketed as healthy fiber sources!

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But you should know, whether you have children or you secretly keep a stash of Cap’n Crunch in your pantry, that cereals that are aggressively marketed to kids have the worst nutritional quality of all cereals, according to an analysis of 161 brands conducted last year.

The analysis, published in the Journal of American Dietetic Association, found that children’s cereals have more sugar, sodium, carbohydrates, and calories per gram than cereals not marketed to kids. They also have less protein and fiber.

On average, sugar accounts for more than one-third of the weight of children's cereals compared to less than one-quarter of adult cereals.

But parents continue to shell out for these nutritional disasters because the food industry spends about $229 million annually advertising them to children. Colorful cartoons and other cheery tricks stimulate your child into wanting these “fun” foods, but the damage they can do to your child’s health is no laughing matter.

In the last two decades, the prevalence of overweight adolescents has nearly tripled, and current statistics show 16 percent of children are overweight or obese. An excess of sugar and carbohydrates are two culprits contributing to this growing problem.

Cereal Is Not a Healthy Breakfast

According to the analysis of 161 cereal brands noted above, one serving of cereal equated to 11 percent of the daily limit of added sugar for active boys, aged 14 to 18 years old, and an astounding 92 percent of the daily sugar intake for sedentary girls aged 9 to 13.

The problem with feeding your child foods high in added sugar is twofold – they contain little in terms of vitamins and minerals, and the calories they contain are not made up of important micronutrients needed for health and growth.

Reducing sugar intake should be on the top of your list regardless of whether your child is currently overweight or not, because it’s been proven over and over that sugar increases insulin levels, which can lead to:

  • High blood pressure and high cholesterol
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Weight gain
  • Premature aging, and more

In fact, sugar is bad for your health in so many ways, I’ve compiled an entire list outlining 76 Ways in Which Sugar Can Damage Your Health!

But even if you’re not eating a children’s cereal – let’s say you’re eating a more “adult” oriented cereal that’s high in fiber and low in sugar – it is still not a healthy breakfast choice.


Because cereal is mostly grain, and grains rapidly break down to sugar in your body, stimulating insulin production. So, if you:

  • Are overweight
  • Have high cholesterol
  • Have high blood pressure
  • Have diabetes

… then you are best served avoiding cereal for breakfast.

If your nutritional type is carbohydrate oriented and you don’t have any of the above problems, then grains are a possible option for you. But, rest assured, if you indulge in grains to excess you are heading for one of the above diseases.

Further, to keep your energy up and feel satisfied, you should really strive to include a healthy source of protein and fat, according to your nutritional type, with your breakfast.

That is really what my nutrition plan is all about – AVOIDING grains, such as bagels, cereal and pancakes, and replacing them with high-quality proteins (such as eggs), healthy fats (INCLUDING saturated fat) and low-glycemic complex carbs, mostly from veggies.

What Is a Healthier Breakfast Option for Kids (and for You)?

It is very important that you start your day off with a healthy breakfast, as studies have shown that eating breakfast can have beneficial effects on:

  • Appetite
  • Insulin resistance
  • Energy metabolism

One study even found that obesity and insulin resistance syndrome rates were 35 percent to 50 percent lower among people who ate breakfast every day, compared to those who frequently skipped it.

But there’s more to it than simply not skipping the meal. You need to give your body high-quality fuel to run off of for the day. And sugary breakfast cereals do not qualify.

So what is an example of a healthy breakfast that will keep you feeling energized and at the top of your game for hours?

My primary recommendation for Carb and Mixed nutritional types is to prepare and consume fresh vegetable juice, making sure to also eat the pulp. (It’s loaded with so many valuable phytonutrients, it would be unwise to discard it.)

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Veggie juice is a really simple breakfast alternative, and suitable even for your youngest ones. If you want to add some protein and fat, try adding some raw cream, raw kefir or a raw egg or two.

Juicing may not be the best option for Protein types (like me), however, so if your child is a Protein type, you’d want to limit them to 10 ounces or less of raw juice each day, and restrict the vegetables to lower potassium varieties such as spinach and celery.

Prior to understanding Nutritional Typing I used to juice vegetables, but now my breakfast contains far more fat. I typically make a porridge with several ounces of fresh raw coconut cream (which I obtain locally as it’s not available commercially). Then I mix in 2–3 raw organic free-range eggs, some rice bran, and some raw organic nuts, ground organic hemp seeds and coconut milk. That typically keeps me going strong until lunch.

So please give some serious thoughts to what types of foods your child is eating for breakfast. Proper childhood nutrition is so important if you want to set the stage for lifelong health that I wrote an entire book on the subject called Generation XL: Raising Healthy, Intelligent Kids in a High-Tech, Junk-Food World.

It even includes 74 pages of kid-approved recipes, brimming with all-natural, healthy choices that will satisfy even your picky eaters. So if you’re looking for even more options to wean your kids off breakfast cereal, this book is an excellent place to find them.

November 24, 2009

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