THE BLOG
12/28/2014 03:48 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Buyer Beware: Your Cereal May Contain More Sugar Than a Dessert!

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"No fat," "oat fiber," "multigrain flakes," "helps lower cholesterol." Cereal boxes make all kinds of claims to get you to pick them for your health.

Buyer beware... even cereals that include lots of fiber and whole grains usually have 3-4 teaspoons of sugar per cup of cereal.

"In fact, worldwide we are consuming about 500 extra calories a day from sugar. That's just about what you would need to consume if you wanted to gain a pound a week," Kristin Kirkpatrick, M.S., R.D., L.D, manager of Wellness Nutrition Services at Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute, wrote in the HuffPost blog "10 Things You Don't Know About Sugar (And What You Don't Know Could Hurt You)."

Cereal #1 -- Protein and Fiber

A protein and fiber cereal with a name that suggests "healthy!"

  • All natural ingredients
  • 7 whole grains
  • 9 grams of protein
  • 8 grams of fiber

Sounds healthy, right? But the nutritional facts tell a different story:

Would you put 4 teaspoons of sugar on your cereal in the morning?

Cereal #2 -- Whole Grain and Oat Fiber

Made whole grain and oat fibre that "helps lower cholesterol." Again this sounds like a food that will enhance your health, but take a look at the sugar in the nutritional facts:

This is not as healthy as the food company wants you to believe.

Don't be fooled by these so-called healthy cereals. Read the nutritional labels first. With some searching at the grocery store, you can find an oat fiber, bran or whole grain cereal with no added sugar, or one with only one or two grams of sugar per cup. Add your own fruit and have a more honestly healthy breakfast cereal.

Oatmeal

Made the old-fashioned way, oatmeal is an ideal breakfast cereal (you could even add your own quarter to half teaspoon of brown sugar if you wanted to or 1 portion of fruit and some cinnamon).  Oatmeal in instant packs with the food company adding the "fruit" typically contains 3 teaspoons of sugar per pack.  If you want to use the instant pack, use the plain packs and add your own fruit or small amount of brown sugar or cinnamon.

Granola Bars: Watch Out!

Like cereals, granola bars often boast of their "high fiber and whole grains," but they, too, can include far more sugar than you might suspect. Depending on the variety, the sugar content in a granola bar can be greater than that in a serving of cookies.

Granola and cereal-based bars often claim to be composed of 100 percent all-natural ingredients such as rolled oats, roasted nuts, dried fruit, and yogurt. They are advertised as wholesome treats, but don't be conned!

Granola bars and cereal bars generally are sweet snacks that serve only to give you lots of sugar, that can be addictive. As with all products, you need to read the nutritional labels carefully and be very skeptical of products "claiming to be very healthy."

So in the examples above of granola bars, 13 grams of sugar = 3 teaspoons of sugar.

If you cannot forgo the convenience of a snack bar, look for a low sugar variety (that are not easy to find), maximum of 4 grams of sugar ( = 1 teaspoon of sugar). Keep in mind though that you're always better off making your own trail mix with nuts, seeds, and some dried fruit. Also, don't overlook other options for that mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack, such as fresh fruit, low or zero fat plain yogurt, or hummus and fresh vegetables.

Desserts

Once you wean yourself off the excess sugar incorporated into many of the foods around you, your craving for sweat foods will most likely diminish. Or, at the very least, many of the foods you once craved will taste unpleasantly sweet to you. This is a good thing. Of course, you're going to want a dessert every once in awhile (once you have reached your goal weight, you can have one dessert a week). The key is to make healthier choices, be very mindful of portion size of the dessert and consider sharing a dessert.  "Caring is sharing."

Think Before You Eat

Here are some examples of the sugar content in some desserts.

Watch Out for Food Labeled as Low Fat

I recently saw a box of ice cream drumsticks at a grocery store that proclaimed:

"Vanilla and Chocolate Cone, 95 percent fat free, low fat."

A look at the nutritional label shows 19 grams of sugar. Divided by four, that equals nearly 5 teaspoons of sugar to compensate for the low fat. The moral here is that "low fat" doesn't necessarily been healthy.

Don't Be Fooled by Misleading Marketing

As with "low fat," other beneficial ingredients such as "high fiber," "whole grains," "natural ingredients," just to mention a few, can be accompanied by unhealthy amounts of sugar. I encourage you to read the nutritional label and make a healthy choice for yourself.

Yogurt

Be mindful of the sugar content in yogurt. I encourage you to read the nutritional labels with each yogurt purchase, either the small snack size or the larger containers. Most have the "fruit" added by the manufacturer, but most of that added "fruit" is mainly added sugar in the form of syrup. For example, I recently saw a snack size blueberry yogurt at a coffee shop, it had 0 percent fat, but when I read the nutritional facts, I discovered that it contained 18 grams of sugar per container. As you now know, that is 4.5 teaspoons of sugar.

Therefore, choose low fat yogurt, plain and add your own fruit.

Becoming mindful of budgeting of food types through daily/weekly diet plans; decreasing our diet of sugar, salt, and fat are all part of the controlling your health and wellness and losing weight.

You can say goodbye to the diet fad of the month and say hello to healthy living.