Tag Archives: cereal

To sugar or not to sugar

When I was little, my favorite cereal was Frosted Flakes.  What was a kid not to love?  As it was also my mom’s favorite, we got to eat fairly regularly.  However, occasionally, we ran out.  And my Dad insisted that you could just sprinkle some sugar in a bowl of corn flakes and get the same result.  WRONG!

I was reminded of these morning battles when I saw a blogger say that she bought the plain shredded wheat cereal for her family then had them add sugar, rather than buy the frosted cereal.  And I babysat some children whose mother had successfully convinced them that adding honey to a bowl of regular Cheerios was the same as eating Honey Nut Cheerios.  These mothers must be more convincing than my father.

But all of this had me puzzling – is it really healthier to sprinkle sugar in a cereal than just buy the sugar version?  From my observations, people dump in at least a teaspoon of sugar when doing that.  Well, today, we are going to crunch the numbers.  For consistency sake, I am going to say that people add 1 teaspoon of sugar (or honey) to their cereal.  Also, we are going to assume that our hypothetical cereal eaters drink all the milk in the bowl.  While I personally find this disgusting, it is the only way I know to make this fair.  If you add in sugar, a lot of it dissolves into the milk.  However, have you ever looked at a frosted mini wheat after it has been in the milk awhile?  That sugar dissolves too.

Here goes:

Nutrients 50 g shredded wheat cereal + 1 teaspoon sugar 50 g frosted shredded wheat cereal 1 cup Cheerios + 1 teaspoon honey 1 cup Honey Nut Cheerios
Calories 187 175 126 140
Carbohydrates 45 42 27 30
Sugar 4 10 7 12
Fiber 7 5 3 3

(I used 50 g for the shredded wheat, since that is approximately a serving size listed on a package).

So, you really do save yourself some added sugars when you add the sugar yourself.  BUT, that does mean you have to be careful in how much you add.  A teaspoon of sugar adds 4 g of sugar.  A teaspoon of honey adds 6 g of sugar.  So, it doesn’t take much to make them about the same.  I added the fiber line because I found it slightly interesting that the frosted cereal has less fiber.  I’m assuming this is because you are getting more actual wheat cereal in 50 g of the plain cereal and adding your own sugar versus 50 g of cereal including the sugar.

So parents everywhere are justified.  Even if it doesn’t really taste the same.

Happy cereal eating!

Have any nutrition questions? Need help with meal planning or a special dietary need? Send your questions to me at kimberlykmarsh(at)gmail(dot)com, and I will answer them in upcoming posts!

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Artificial Colors and Flavors

General Mills recently announced that they will be removing artificial colors and flavors from their remaining cereals in the coming months, with a goal of all cereals being artificial ingredient free by the end of 2016. According to General Mills, 60% of their cereal products are already free of artificial colors and flavors. Trix, Lucky Charms, and Reeses Puffs are among those slated to change in the next year or so.

As I have said many times on this blog, I am a big believer in making small changes for the better. But this announcement definitely makes me chuckle. Are there people out there who think that this change will make Trix or Lucky Charms a healthy choice?

I will admit, I am not on the no food dye band wagon that many people are on. Theoretically, we should be consuming minimal amounts of these items anyway if we are sticking to a healthy eating plan. Fresh fruits and vegetables, low fat dairy, low fat meats, whole grain products should be the basis of our diets and most of these won’t have many added dyes or flavors.

If the cereal companies really wanted to make a meaningful change, what if they reduced the sugar content of all their cereals by at least 25%? Or made it a standard that all of their cereals are made with 100% whole grains? Those are nutritionally meaningful changes, but they aren’t as popular right now, unfortunately.

Happy eating!

Have any nutrition questions? Need help with meal planning or a special dietary need? Send your questions to me at kimberlykmarsh(at)gmail(dot)com, and I will answer them in upcoming posts!

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