Oh man. The Wife and I frequently negotiate the terms of our son’s upbringing. I am fundamentally opposed to sugar cereal. Sarah would support a constitutional amendment guaranteeing a daily bowl of Cookie Crisp.
She actually thinks she’s pulling a fast one on breakfast by eating cookies disguised as cereal. I exasperatedly tell her, “For chrissake, you’re an adult! You can have cookies for breakfast if you really want! I will happily procure for you chewy gooey crisp-on-the-edges, soft-in-the-middle fresh baked chocolate-chip cookies! You can crumble them into a bowl of milk and it will taste worlds better than those artificially flavored, highly processed, stale cardboard ass-nuggets!”
Predictably, Sarah cannot wait to share the joys of Cookie Crisp with our 17 month-old son. Ditto for chocolate-chip pancakes and strawberry Pop-Tarts. I’m willing to consider the pancakes. But only on weekends, and only if our son’s behavior is exemplary. (Meanwhile, The Wife thinks I’m a cosmic sphincter for using words like procure and exemplary.)
Yesterday the nonprofit Environmental Working Group (EWG) released its study of children’s cereals and their sugar content. But since people tend to read blogs instead of studies, the EWG also released a media-friendly Top Ten list of the sugariest [it's a word]. Honey Smacks won in a landslide of white crystals, with 55% sugar. (The EWG’s methodology was to check nutritional info on the cereal brands’ official websites. Cunning in its simplicity.)
I’ll spare you the 23 page report, and cut to the nut with:
The EWG’s 10 Worst Cereals
If you’re like me, you read this list and thought a) but Apple Jacks are so achingly good!, and b) whatever happened to Trix and Lucky Charms? (31% and 37% sugar, respectively.) Fortunately both brands are still doing their utmost to blur that arbitrary line between kids cereal and psychotropic drugs.
Cereal manufacturers realize that the only place they must reduce sugar is in their products’ names. They could market a cereal called Honey Dunkin’ Dingleberries, or Frosted Toasty Nutsacks. Just as long as they don’t explicitly mention sugar.
Connoisseurs will recall that Honey Smacks used to be called Sugar Smacks, but they changed the name to appear more wholesome. Ditto for Sugar Corn Pops, which became simply Corn Pops (31% sugar). That’s sort of like in 1949 when the War Department became the Defense Department. Full disclosure: just thinking about a bowl of Pops makes me Kellogg’s-Sugar-Corn-Pop a breakfast boner.
Two aspects of the EWG study are well intentioned but impotent. First, they list some healthful cereal alternatives, as well as superb non-cereal breakfast options. But these recommendations are soft-pedaled and unlikely to reach parents who purchase Cap’n Crunch OOPS! All Berries (as in “Oops!… I just gave my kid diabetes”).
Second, the report offers a dispassionate synopsis of toothless federal efforts to reform children’s cereals. Representatives from the FDA, FTC, CDC, and USDA all collaborated to form a shiny new acronym: the IWG, for Interagency Working Group on Food Marketed to Children. Their interagency orgy produced an abortive proposal to limit the sugar in children’s cereals to “only” 26% [snarky air-quotes mine]. And it wouldn’t be fully implemented until the year 2021 (presumably to avert a sudden nationwide sugar withdrawal). Oh and there’s no actual regulation, just a “proposed voluntary guideline.” They may as well be advocating dental dams.
Missing from the EWG’s report is any outrage at the hypocrisy of a society that permits the manufacture and shameless marketing of cereals like Count Chocula (44%). They should have skipped the study and instead distributed wallet-size instructions for calculating sugar content.* Or better yet, they could have just issued the following memo:
To: Parents Who Buy Their Children Kellogg’s Smorz
From: Environmental Working Group
Re: Type 2 Diabetez
Listen up you dumb motherfuckerz! You just fed your kidz SMORZ for breakfast! Not only are you making your kidz fat, hyper and diabetic, but your cereal choice is also contributing to illiteracy. If you are determined to make your kids obese, go buy some graham crackers, marshmallows and Hershey bars and fix them some mouthwatering, gooey sticky-finger s’mores! That’s S-[apostrophe]-M-O-R-E. As in, gimme s’more, bee-YATCH!
Alright, I’m weary from venting. I’m gonna go start my morning right with a wholesome bowl of Kellogg’s Raisin Bran. Each box has “two scoops” of – aw crap… it’s 33% sugar.
*To calculate percentage of sugar: take the amount of sugar in a serving size. (In the case of Honey Smacks, that’s 15 grams sugar in a 27 gram serving.) Add two zeros to the first number, then divide by the second to get percentage sugar: 1,500 ÷ 27 = 55.5555556, or 55.6%. Christ, you’re smart.