Breakfast is not so gr-r-reat when your only option is Frosted Flakes

by Kristin Wartman, via Grist.org,

Breakfast cub: Tony the Tiger says start your kid's day with big bowls of sweetened corn. Photo: Jim BarkerOne in four children goes without breakfast each morning, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a tragedy to be sure—but are Kellogg’s breakfast products the solution? Kellogg announced its new project called Share Your Breakfast, part of a national advertising campaign. The project asks Americans to upload their breakfast photos to the website shareyourbreakfast.com, and Kellogg Company will donate up to $200,000—the equivalent of 1 million school breakfasts to help feed children from food-insecure households.

Feeding hungry children sure sounds nice, but filling hungry bellies with highly-processed junk foods is hardly the answer. Let’s take a look at some of the products Kellogg is promoting as part of this endeavor.

Frosted Flakes—one of the products represented by Tony the Tiger at a National Breakfast Day event in New York March 8, 2011—contains 11 grams of sugar per three-fourths cup serving. After the first ingredient of milled corn, the next three read: sugar, malt flavoring, and high-fructose corn syrup—three forms of sugar by different names.

Nutri-Grain bars—a product promoted as healthy—contain more than 30 ingredients (minus the synthetic vitamins) and include high-fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors, red #40, TBHQ, and host of other chemicals. Meanwhile, the front of the package reads: “More of the whole grains your body needs,” “Good source of fiber,” and “Made with real fruit.” The only “real fruit” I could find is “strawberry puree concentrate” and it’s listed after high-fructose corn syrup and corn syrup. Each bar contains 11 grams of sugar and 3 grams of fiber.

Even Corn Flakes contain sugar, malt flavoring, and high-fructose corn syrup, listed as its second, third, and fourth ingredients. Kellogg is also offering promotions on Rice Krispies, Mini-Wheats, and Eggo Waffles—the waffles contain partially-hydrogenated oils in addition to high-fructose corn syrup.

But Kellogg Company knows that people are concerned about feeding their kids sugar and chemicals for breakfast every morning, so it has dedicated whole sections of its website to “correcting” false nutrition information. In one section, Kellogg refers to sugar as the “misunderstood nutrient.” According to the website, “Sugar does not cause obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease or hyperactivity.” This statement flies in the face of the most recent research and a host of mainstream studies that say the exact opposite.

One of the most recent studies, reported in TIME Magazine last year, found that consuming added sugars raises the risk for heart disease by raising cholesterol and triglycerides. The American Heart Association’s (AHA) website states, “High intake of added sugars is implicated in numerous poor health conditions, including obesity, high blood pressure and other risk factors for heart disease and stroke.” The AHA is so concerned about the amount of added sugars in the American diet that in 2009, it established upper limits for adults (none exist yet for children, oddly enough). The AHA says that women should get no more than six teaspoons a day and men no more than nine.

Most of the Kellogg’s products I researched contained an average of 11 grams of sugar per serving, which is close to three teaspoons of sugar. If we assume that the average child weighs about half what the average woman weighs, then three teaspoons is the upper limit of how much a child should safely consume in one day, according to the AHA. That means the child couldn’t eat any other added sugars for the rest of the day (not likely) and that he or she could only eat the single three-fourths cup serving (also, not likely). The AHA says the average American eats an alarming 22 teaspoons of added sugar a day.

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