8 Unhealthy Truths About Breakfast Cereal

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8 Unhealthy Truths About Breakfast Cereal - DontMesswithMama.com


We’ve all heard those commercials. You know, the TV ads for breakfast cereals – even those cereals marketed to kids.

“This cereal is part of a balanced breakfast.”

Well, my 9-year-old son saw a commercial for a kids breakfast cereal and asked me if it was true. We’ve talked a lot about deceptive advertising and how companies will say their food is healthy when it’s really not. So I was happy he asked me.


In fact, THAT particular brand of breakfast cereal was actually loaded with sugar and not much else. When I told him it wasn’t true and explained that it was made mostly of sugar and preservatives, he was shocked.

“Well, then why do they say it’s part of a balanced breakfast then?,” he asked exasperated.

And like many kids, adults are confused about the real nutritional value of breakfast cereals too.

8 Unhealthy Truths About Breakfast Cereal

For decades, Americans have been duped into thinking that breakfast cereal is indeed a part of a balanced breakfast. Just look at the nutrition label and you’ll see phrases, such as whole grain, natural, fortified with vitamins, gluten free and high in fiber – all keywords that give consumers the impression that cereals are healthy. The reality is far from the truth.

Find out why you should avoid breakfast cereal.

1. They are loaded with GMOs.

Unless a cereal has been labeled as organic, it’s likely to contain genetically modified ingredients (GMOs), including wheat, corn and soy, which can wreak havoc on the immune system and lead to various health issues (such as autoimmune disease, gluten allergies and more).

2. They are loaded with preservatives.

Check out the food label of any cereal box. Chances are preservatives such as BHT, BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) and TBHQ (tertiary butylhydroquinone) have been added to make the cereal last longer on grocery shelves. These preservatives have been linked to neurological issues, behavioral problems and are believed to be carcinogenic.

3. They have artificial dyes.

Kids love those brightly colored Os and other fun shapes in breakfast cereals. Unfortunately, those colors are usually made with artificial dyes (which have been banned in many other countries but not in the US). These dyes have been linked to behavioral issues in children.

4. They have artificial flavors.

That box of breakfast flakes with dried strawberry bits might taste delicious but it’s unlikely made with real strawberries. In many cereals, artificial flavors have been added to make them taste better. These ingredients have been linked with fatigue, headaches, allergies, cancer and other health issues.

5. They are heavily refined and stripped of most of their nutrients.

The grains used in most breakfast cereals have been stripped and refortified with vitamins and minerals (since the manufacturing process removed most of the real nutrients) and go through an extrusion process to make them into the Os and other fun shapes that kids love to eat. The result is a food-like substance that’s been made to look nothing like it’s original source and so heavily refined that there’s no nutritional value so cereal companies add it back in.1

6. They are loaded with pesticides.

In a 2001 study, researchers measured pesticide resides in the urine of 110 children. All children had measurable levels of organophosphate (OP) metabolites – with the exception of one child. Turns out the child who didn’t have OP ate exclusively organic produce. OP exposure in kids have been linked to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).2 Pesticides can cause other health issues.

7. The worst breakfast cereals tend to have the MOST advertising directed toward kids. 

One of the worst unhealthy truths about breakfast cereal is the deceptive marketing to children (similar to what my own son experienced). Breakfast cereals marketed to kids have about 85% more sugar, 65% less fiber and 60% more sodium than cereals marketed to adults.3 And what’s more disturbing is that many parents think breakfast cereals for kids are a healthy breakfast option.

Cereal FACTS (Food Advertising to Children and Teens Score) is a research study developed by the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at Yale University, in consultation with a steering committee of experts in nutrition, marketing, and public health.

Cereal FACTS measured breakfast cereals by nutritional quality, such as sugar, fiber, salt and fat, and found these popular kids breakfast cereals as the worst on the nutrition score.4

Top 10 Worst Cereals for Kids

1. Cocoa Pebbles
2. Fruity Pebbles
3. Cap’n Crunch
4. Fruity Pebbles with Marshmallows
5. Cap’n Crunch with Crunch Berries
6. Cap’n Crunch with OOPS! All Berries
7. Cap’n Crunch Peanut Butter Crunch
8. Special K Chocolatey Delight
9. Rice Krispies – Rice Krispies Treats
10. Rice Krispies – Frosted Krispies

Cocoa Pebbles topped the list as it’s about 40% sugar by weight.3 One serving contains 11 grams of sugar (and remember many kids eat more than the recommend serving) – that’s more sugar than a Krispy Kreme donut.5

 

8. Even breakfast cereals marketed as “natural” or “healthy” are really no better than conventional cereals but with a bigger price tag.

The truth is that even “healthy” cereals don’t fare much better. There are no legal requirements for foods that are labeled as “natural”. It’s basically meaningless hype used by breakfast cereal companies to dupe consumers who are looking for healthier cereal options.
For instance, in 2011 a class action lawsuit was filed against Kashi for misleading consumers with its “natural” claims. Many of their products are made with GMOS and synthetic processed ingredients.2

In addition, some companies with a historical “organic” brand image have changed from organic to conventional ingredients (that may contain GMOs and pesticides) to save money. Annie’s Homegrown and Peace Cereals, for instance, had exclusively organic or mostly organic cereal and granola products in 2007 but now there’s 20% or less organic ingredients.2 Yet, the prices of these cereals remain the same so the cost-savings have not been passed down to consumers.

So while you think you’re buying a healthy or natural cereal, most likely you’re really getting the same GMOs, pesticides and other processed ingredients as conventional cereals – except you’re paying more for it.

What to Eat Instead of Breakfast Cereal

Now NOT ALL breakfast cereals that are labeled as “natural” or “healthy” bad. Usually those that are organic must abide by standards to include only organic ingredients.

Cornucopia Institute has a fantastic report called, Cereal Crimes: How “Natural” Claims Deceive Consumers and Undermine the Organic Label—A Look Down the Cereal and Granola Aisle. Take a look to find out which “natural” and “organic” brand cereals truly are organic.

I personally avoid breakfast cereals for my family. I prefer to make whole-food meals for breakfast, such as scrambled eggs from pasture-raised or organic hens, nitrate-free bacon and fresh fruit. Sometimes I’ll serve homemade gluten-free bread or gluten-free buttermilk pancakes as a special treat on the weekends. My main focus for breakfast is to ensure my kids get an adequate amount of protein and avoid any refined sugars.

On the go and need something you can easily grab in the refrigerator or pantry? Try hard-boiled eggs. They are the perfect on-the-go food. You can also try nuts (properly sprouted and dried) or this Paleo Maple Nut Trail Mix (I make this in batches and store in little reusable snack bags so my kids can grab and go).

Check out my post on 50+ Gluten-Free and Grain-Free Healthy Breakfast Ideas. You won’t find sugary snacks or pre-packaged breakfast sandwiches here – just simple, homemade breakfast meals with real food ingredients, no refined sugars and no artificial anything.

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8 Unhealthy Truths About Breakfast Cereal - DontMesswithMama.com


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Photo credit: DepositPhotos.com / alphababy




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Comments

  1. Well written Tracey. Thank you.

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  1. […] 8 Unhealthy Truths About Breakfast Cereal […]

  2. […] I  had completely forgotten it existed until I read 8 Unhealthy Truths About Breakfast Cereal via Don’t Mess With Mama. […]

  3. […] We always say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day… and yet you will see commercial after commercial for the best breakfast cereals out there. Unfortunately breakfast cereal is not the best way to start out your day… in fact it’s not the best food to have any time of the day.  For those that love breakfast cereal take a look at what Don’t Mess With Mama has to show about Breakfast Cereals. Did you know all of these unhealthy truths? […]

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