As a kid you don’t worry too much about how healthy your cereals are. I mean, I remember being a kid and having Cookie Crisp come out (in 1977, apparently), and thinking ‘OH YEAH’! Then there were some other faves like Crunch Berries, Count Chocula, Boo Berry and Franken Berry. They were all nice sugary junk-food breakfast cereals we all loved … and far more appealing than the healthy alternatives such as Shredded Wheat (not the frosted stuff), Grape Nuts – or at best ‘compromise’ cereals like Cheerios or Rice Krispies with generous help from the sugar bowl.
Then – like now – it was up to parents to discern what their kids should be eating. But when I was young there was a pretty clear differentiation between Crunch Berries and Puffed Wheat. Now it is harder than ever to know what is good for you – and this new list of ’20 unhealthy cereals’ is a great example in more than one way.
Here is the description:
Sure, some fast food chains are worse than others, not all pizzas are created equal, and even some frozen dinners can be hazardous to your health.
But here’s a new one: is there a saturated fat- and calorie-bomb lurking inside that innocent-seeming bowl of cereal? A bowl of Cap’n Crunch isn’t as bad as a sodium-packed slice of pepperoni pizza, but there’s still loads of sugar—up to 50% for some brands—in every bite of many popular breakfast cereals.
To find the 20 deadliest cereals on your grocer’s shelf, The Daily Beast used data from Good Guide and limited our list to the most popular brands. This ranking is based on Good Guide’s health score, on a scale of 0 to 10, worst to best. Ties were broken by total calories per serving.
Most of the list isn’t surprising – over-sweet kids’ cereals that remain ‘junk food’ in spite of claims to be ‘fortified’ and ‘packed with vitamins’. The fat content in granola cereals, too, is no surprise – anything with real nuts will inherently have loads of fat. In the case of sweet stuff, it is up to parents to make the informed choice and read the labels around sugar, carbs and dietary fiber. Stuff like granola is SUPPOSED to have a fuller dietary load, so singling out Quaker 100% Natural Oatmeal Raisin Granola Cereal makes little sense.
There are some – like Blueberry Morning – that are ‘adult junk food’. They LOOK like a great choice, but then you realize the clusters are fake, the blueberries processed and there is just a load of crap instead of a good, natural cereal. The unfortunate reality is that due to subsidies and incentives processed and chemical-based foods are much cheaper than natural products (which is a rant for another day).
But there are places where the list is flawed and points to an inherent issue with ‘read the label’-only approach to nutrition: Raisin Bran made the list, yet is one of the better cereals you can have your kids eat – provided they don’t add any sugar. You have enough sweetness to satisfy, plus the raisins are an actual fruit source. The same is true for Raisin Nut Bran, which adds nuts – and the associated protein – to an already great choice.
The problem is that by simply adding up totals on a scorecard misses the point. As I mention, granola cereals are loaded with fat and carbs to be sure – but also fiber, protein and other natural sources or vitamins and nutrition rather than chemical additives. Also, a half-cup of granola – particularly with yogurt rather than milk – will fill you up and energize you in a way that a supposedly healthier cereal never could.
What is your favorite ‘guilty pleasure’ cereal?