Take a second look before picking cereal because those marketed
to children are often high in sugar.
Food giant General Mills is reducing sugar in cereals advertised
to children to single-digit grams per serving. According to their
press release, the initiative is in place and progress made with
continuing reductions "until single-digit levels are reached on all
cereals advertised to children."
"As a leader in our industry, I think they're doing the right
thing," says UIC professor and director of cariology Christine
Diets high in sugar feed bacteria that produce acids in the
mouth, which in turn cause cavities. Although milk has been argued
to neutralize the acid, sugary cereals stay acidic with or without
milk, according to Wu.
"The important thing is to brush your teeth after eating sugar,"
says Wu. She recommends treating sugary cereals like any sugary
Apple juice, pop, and anything high in sugar subject your mouth
to "acid attacks," eventually eroding enamel and causing cavities.
Wu says sugar substitutes are good alternatives but still
"The decision to decrease to single digits is significant to
General Mills," says Marlene Schwartz, Deputy Director of the Rudd
Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University. Yet, she
believes the change is "not close enough."
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends 12 grams of
sugar for children 4-8 years old.
"I wouldn't want to see parents thinking of these cereals as
low-sugar cereals," says Schwartz, adding that a low-sugar cereal
is one at 4 grams or less.
Cereals like Fruit Loops have 11 or 12 grams of sugar while
healthier alternatives like Rice Krispies have 2 or 4 grams.
"If you've been buying high sugar cereals, you can expect some
argument," says Schwartz, "but I'd recommend explaining to your
child that these cereals have way too much sugar."
A good compromise is to let your child add a packet of sugar.
They'll still be getting substantially less than pre-sweetened
cereals, says Schwartz.
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