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Want to know just how sugary your kid's cereal is? What about your own?

October 27, 2009 |  4:56 pm

Reese's Peanut Butter Cups rock. No question. And a whole lot of campers rightly appreciate a good s'more now and then. But then, these are desserts or snacks or treats or whatever you want to call them, not meals. Not for most people.

General Mills' Reese's Puffs and Kellogg's Smorz on the other hand pass themselves off -- quite blatantly -- as meals for children. So do many of their kin. And that irritates the researchers at Yale University's Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity.

It irritates them a lot.

Sugar They analyzed the marketing and nutritional content of breakfast cereals and found that even small kids are a big target for heavy marketing of colorful sweet snacks sold as breakfast.

They write in the home page of their new report, Cereal FACTS (Food Advertising to Children and Teens Score):

"Cereal companies speak to children early, often, and when parents are not looking. The least healthy cereals are the ones most aggressively marketed to children, frequently in misleading and deceptive ways. Food marketing to children negatively influences the dietary choices and health of society's most vulnerable citizens. Given the childhood obesity epidemic at hand, we need meaningful solutions and real change. We're here to give you the FACTS. It's time for action."   

The lowest-scoring cereal, nutrition-wise: Kellogg's Corn Pops - Chocolate Peanut Butter. To be fair, it tied with Quaker's Cap'n Crunch w/ Crunchberries.

The top-scoring cereal, from a nutritional standpoint: Kashi's Puffs -- 7 Whole Grains Puffs.

And the cereal most heavily marketed to children: General Mills' Cinnamon Toast Crunch.

For those consumers so weary of the bad news about children's cereals that they're beyond dismay, outrage, surprise or even mild indignation, just go straight to the search function. It lets you satisfy idle curiosity about your favorite confectionery-in-a-bowl ...

It's accessible from the home page.

Here's the full report.

And here's the press release with the report's highlights. Use it to test whether you truly no longer have the ability to be surprised on the topic. It notes:

"Cereals marketed directly to children have 85% more sugar, 65% less fiber, and 60% more sodium than cereals marketed to adults for adult consumption."

"The average preschooler sees 642 cereal ads per year on television alone, almost all for cereals with the worst nutrition rankings."

Still nothing? What about this: That reference to "Sugar content, 41%," under Reese's Puffs, really does indicate the proportion of the cereal that comes from sugar.

Not doing it for you? Try this one: Kellogg's Special K Chocolatey Delight has a sugar content of 29%. It's marketed to apparently well-trained, sugar-craving adults. 

-- Tami Dennis

Photo: A spoonful of cereal helps the sugar go down.

Credit: Los Angeles Times

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