A research funded by the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, and published in The Journal of the American Dietetic Association, analyzed 161 cereal brands, and discovered that breakfast cereals marketed the most aggressively to kids have the worst nutritional quality.
Of the 161 cereals identified between January and February 2006, 46% were classified as being marketed to children (eg, packaging contained a licensed character or contained an activity directed at children).
"The cereal the parent is eating himself or herself is probably better than what they're feeding their child," Dr. Marlene B. Schwartz of Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, the lead researcher on the study, told Reuters Health.
Schwartz and her colleagues also found that health claims made for kids' cereals were often misleading. Cereals sold as "low fat" or "low sugar" were not lower in calories, as parents might assume, and while brands touted as "whole grain" did have more fiber, they had just as much salt, sugar and fat as other brands and the same calorie content.
Kids' cereals had more sugar, sodium, carbohydrate and calories per gram than non-children's cereals, and less protein and fiber. Sugar accounted for more than one-third of the weight of children's cereals, on average, compared to less than one-quarter of the adult cereals.
Did you get that?
More than one-third of the weight of the children's cereals, on average, is sugar. Based on how much cereal your child eats, that's a lot of sugar consumed by an innocent child that is in the mercy of the greedy corporations.
So, what could you, as a concerned parent, do in this situation?
The most important thing to do is to use common sense. If a cereal is advertised very heavily, it costs hundreds of thousands of dollars in advertising fee to the company, if not millions of dollars. Advertising is not cheap. And who do you think is paying for all that advertising?
Well, the company will first pay for it and then include that cost into the price of the cereal to get the money back from you, the unaware parent. It's a standard marketing procedure used in any business. Therefore, the cereal must be very expensive compared to the non-advertised cereals. Right?
What happens when you go to the store and look at that heavy advertised cereal from the children's media channels with cartoon characters, pretty colors, games, activities and anything else that would take your attention away from reading the table of ingredients?
The cereal is about the same price as all of the other non-advertised cereals.
So, what went wrong?
In order to keep the price competitive while being able to afford very expensive heavy advertising, the company has to give up something.
Do you think the CEO would give up his or her multi-million dollar bonus?
Don't bet on that.
The company has to make sure the production of that cereal, (including ingredients, packaging, shipping, labor, and so on) is dirt cheap, so when they include the advertising cost into the price, you still pay about the same as you would for the other cereals. In other words, the company has to give up the quality.
Therefore, what you pour into your child's bowl is a third of a sugar, synthetic vitamins and minerals in place of natural whole-foods ones (in other words chemicals), salt, carbohydrates, calories and something that feels crunchy.
But the box is pretty with your child's favorite character, games, activities and some nutritional or health statement to justify your decision and guilt for buying it.
Perhaps, don't let the advertising message, or the box design and activities, get your attention away from the table of ingredients that is usually on the side of the box. Read it whether the cereal is advertised or not, do the math as to how much of what you are consuming and pay very close attention to the serving size. If the numbers are reported per serving size, multiply those numbers by how many servings your child is consuming and you'll know how much of what you're giving to your child.
The rule of thumb would be to never be controlled by the advertisement (in other words not to make a decision solely based on the advertising message), but to do you due diligence of first checking it before consuming it.
If it is sold in stores, it might be edible, but is it going to improve or worsen your health?
It is you who needs to find out, the manufacturers would certainly not tell you that, or how else are they going to make money from you, the unaware parent?