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
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