Cereal Offenders

Morning has broken (your healthy diet)

It’s pitched as the most important meal of the day, but with only 8 per cent of cereals getting a green light for healthy sugar levels, many Britons wake up to poor nutrition, according to a Which? report, ‘Going Against the Grain*’ (http://tinyurl.com/7eacuhq).

Adults and children have a hard job finding a healthy start to the day, as cereal companies continue to add large amounts of sugar to their top brands.

31 cereals out of the 100 looked at contained more than four teaspoons of sugar per recommended serving and only one of the 28 cereals specifically marketed to children was found not to be high in sugar (but was still high in salt)**.

Morrisons Choco Crackles topped the sweet mountain with more sugar per serving than a Cadbury’s Chocolate Flake***, followed closely by Kellogg’s Coco Pops Moons and Stars, Frosties and Ricicles which were over a third (37 per cent) pure sugar.

Many brands thought of as healthy, such as Kellogg’s All Bran, Bran Flakes and Special K did little to bowl over Which? researchers. Starting the day with Special K, for example, would be almost the sugar equivalent to waking up to a bowl of Tesco’s Dark Chocolate Fudge Cake Ice Cream****.

The report, ‘Going Against the Grain’, published in 2009, analysed 100 leading UK cereals. Although sugar levels remained high, positive changes could be seen with reductions in salt content. Despite this, 100g of Tesco Special Flakes was still found to contain the same amount of salt as 100g of Walkers Ready Salted crisps*****.

Other issues included confusing labelling, and questionable health and nutrition claims allowing some companies to promote a wholesome image for their brand, while failing to emphasise the high sugar or salt content******.

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Cereal offenders

Sugar: Top Ten Worst Offenders (per 100g)

  • Morrisons Choco Crackles (38.4g)
  • Kellogg’s Coco Pops Moons & Stars (37g)
  • Kellogg’s Frosties (37g)
  • Kellogg’s Ricicles (37g)
  • Sainsbury’s Choco Rice Pops (36g)
  • Tesco Choco Snaps (36g)
  • Nestle Cookie Crisp (35.3g)
  • Nestle Cheerios Honey (35.1g)
  • Kellogg’s Crunchy Nut (35g)
  • Nestle Nesquik (35g)

Salt: Top Ten Worst Offenders (per 100g)

  • Tesco Special Flakes (2.0g)
  • Kellogg’s Corn Flakes (1.8g)
  • Kellogg’s Honey Loops (1.8g)
  • Morrison’s Honey Nut Corn Flakes (1.8g)
  • Whole Earth Organic Corn Flakes (1.8g)
  • Kellogg’s Rice Krispies (1.65g)
  • Sainsbury’s Be Good To Yourself Balance (1.60g)
  • Tesco Corn Flakes (1.60g)
  • Kellogg’s Fruit and Fibre (1.4g)
  • Kellogg’s Bran Flakes / Sultana Bran (1.3g)
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* In January 2009, Which bought 100 cereals from the main supermarkets. Products were chosen based on their current market share.  Hot cereals and mueslis were excluded from the research because, despite growth in sales in recent years, they remain a small percentage of the market overall. The report looked at the amount of fat, saturates, sugar and salt that the 100 cereals contained and applied the Food Standard Agency’s (FSA) traffic light labelling system where possible, which uses red, amber and green symbols to show whether levels of these nutrients are high, medium or low.  The report also analysed the cereals using the FSA’s nutrient profiling scheme (see below), which determines whether products are a ‘healthier’ or ‘less-healthy’ choice and looked to see how they were promoted, including techniques targeted at children and any nutrition or health claims that are made on their behalf.

** Kellogg’s Rice Krispies have medium levels of sugar (10g per 100g), but remain high in salt (1.65g per 100g)

***Morrisons Choco Crackles – 17.8g sugar per serving / Cadbury’s Flake (32g) -17.7g sugar (ref – http://nutrition.cadbury.co.uk)

****Special K – 11g sugar per recommended serving / Tesco Dark Chocolate Fudge Brownie Ice Cream – 11.6g sugar per serving (ref – www.tesco.com)

***** Tesco Special Flakes – 2.0g salt per 100g / Walkers Ready Salted Crisps – 0.5g salt per 25g bag (www.walkers.co.uk)

******New regulations should stop companies making health and nutrition claims that can’t be substantiated or for foods that are high in fats, sugar or salt. The regulations specify that criteria should be developed by the EU, based on advice from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). The exact criteria for the regulations are still being discussed.

2 thoughts on “Cereal Offenders”

  1. Felicity Lawrence’s book “Eat Your Heart Out” has an entire chapter devoted to processed cereals. The British are the largest eaters of puffed, flaked, flavoured, shaped, sugared, salted and extruded cereals in the world – and its marketed as ‘healthy’!

  2. I don’t not understand why we have cereal pushed upon us. Even without high levels of of salt and sugar, cereal are just empty carbs. Nothing healthy about em. Contributing to “energy” levels but without good vitamins minerals Protien fats ? (not including the added vitamins artificially formulated and added to the cereal, but not naturally digested.)

    Does it stem from post war days when we needed to bulk up? With morbid obesity and type 2 diabetes on increase in children as young as 8 we really need to question what is healthy?
    Cheap easy produced well marketed consumerised processed cereal does not add to your 5 a day, not even fibre.
    What’s wrong with and apple n some yogurt??

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