Breakfast cereals
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Photos: Breakfast cereals and what’s really in them


Want to feed your kids a healthy breakfast without drowning them in sugar? At current levels, a bowl of cereal could go a long way toward the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s recommended limit of 48 grams of added sugar for children consuming 2,200 calories a day.

In fact, children with big morning appetites could easily get half their quota before their day really starts. It’s a challenge -- but it’s getting a little easier. Major cereal makers are rolling out less-sugary versions of some of their sweetest brands.

Here are some breakfast favorites, alongside the numbers* that tell you exactly what’s in your bowl.

-- Los Angeles Times Health

*Information was compiled by Kelsey Ramos, Los Angeles Times, on Feb. 4, 2011. Nutrition information is from the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference and may not reflect recent updates. A serving refers to 3/4 cup (as defined by the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act). Values are rounded to the nearest tenth. (Wilfredo Lee / Associated Press)

In December, General Mills -- maker of Lucky Charms, Trix and many other breakfast staples -- announced that it would cut the sugar levels in all of its children’s cereals to 9 grams or less per 3/4-cup serving.

Nutrition information, per 3/4-cup serving:
Calories: 110 kcal
Sugars: 10.8 g
Protein: 1.9 g
Total dietary fiber: 1.3 g
Carbohydrates: 22.4 g (Gene J. Puskar / Associated Press)

Fruity Pebbles and Cocoa Pebbles used to weigh in at 12 grams of sugar per serving. Last month, Post Foods announced that it had already lowered the sugar in its Fruity Pebbles and Cocoa Pebbles cereals to 9 grams per serving.

Nutrition information, per 3/4-cup serving:
Calories: 120 kcal
Sugars: 13.2 g
Protein: 1.1 g
Total dietary fiber: 0.2 g
Carbohydrates: 26.4 g (Brandi Korte via Flickr)

“Most children don’t have a single serving -- they fill up the whole bowl,” said Jaimie Davis, assistant professor of preventive medicine at USC’s Keck School of Medicine.

Nutrition information, per 3/4-cup serving:
Calories: 110 kcal
Fat: 1.5 g
Sugars: 9 g
Protein: 3 g
Total dietary fiber: 2 g
Carbohydrates: 22 g

Related:
What Michelle Obama says about Honey Nut Cheerios (Paul Sakuma / Associated Press)

Some heartening news: Children seem to be happy to eat low-sugar cereal if it’s offered to them, said Marlene Schwartz, deputy director of Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity.

Nutrition information, per 3/4-cup serving:
Calories: 120 kcal
Sugars: 13.2 g
Protein: 1.1 g
Total dietary fiber: 0.2 g
Carbohydrates: 26.4 g (theimpulsivebuy via Flickr)

In a study published in the journal Pediatrics in December, Schwartz and colleagues served breakfast to a group of children ages 5 to 12.

Half of them got to choose from one of three sugary cereals (Froot Loops, Cocoa Pebbles and Frosted Flakes), while the other half chose from one of three low-sugar cereals (Cheerios, Rice Krispies and Corn Flakes).

Nutrition information, per 3/4 cup serving:
Calories: 110 kcal
Sugars: 11.6 g
Protein: 1.3 g
Total dietary fiber: 0.5 g
Carbohydrates: 27.3 g ()

The children eating Cheerios and the like also consumed far less added sugar: just under 3 grams, compared with 24 grams in the high-sugar group. When given a chance to add their own sugar, the children actually showed far more restraint than the cereal companies.

Most important, Schwartz said, “none of the children in the low-sugar cereal group complained.”

Nutrition information, per 3/4 cup serving:
Calories: 103 kcal
Sugars: 1.1 g
Protein: 3.2 g
Total dietary fiber: 2.8 g
Carbohydrates: 20.9 g (Mark Lennihan / Associated Press)

But cereals are an easy target for parents who want their children to cut back on sugar, Davis said.

If children are already hooked on Froot Loops or Frosted Flakes, she recommends mixing the sugary cereal with a low- or no-sugar cereal to start. Then parents can gradually make the shift toward Cheerios or other less-sweet options.

Nutrition information, per 1-cup serving:
Calories: 110 kcal
Sugars: 12 g
Protein: 1 g
Total dietary fiber: 3 g
Carbohydrates: 25 g (Ben Adams via Flickr)
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