The 10 Worst Ways to Start Your Day
Kellogg’s Apple Jacks
The bad news: Another cereal masquerading as fruit, Apple Jacks was right up there with Cap’n Crunch, with 12 grams of sugar making the cereal 43 percent sugar by weight. That’s the same amount of sugar found in some varieties of ice cream.
Your healthy alternative: It really is better to eat real fruit, and not cereal disguised as fruit. So if you can’t give up your bowl of something fruity in the morning, opt for Lydia’s Organics grainless fruit cereals, which all contain less than 5 grams of sugar and list actual fruits, like apricots and apples, at the top of ingredients lists, not sugar like Apple Jack’s.
The bad news: Better not eat your Wheaties Fuel. Though whole grains are listed as the number one ingredient, the cereal itself has more sugar than a chocolate frosted donut from Dunkin’ Donuts.
Your healthy alternative: If you’re looking for fuel, particularly for a morning workout, less is definitely more with sugar, studies have shown. A study in the Journal of Nutrition found that low-glycemic-index foods, those that prevent blood sugar spikes, can help you burn more fat up to three hours after a meal. Opt for old-fashioned oatmeal; fresh peaches, apples, and pears; dried apricots; whole-wheat toast; and low-fat yogurt to boost fat burn.
General Mills Cinnamon and Honey Nut Chex
The bad news: General Mills has been positioning its line of Chex cereals as healthier alternatives for people on gluten-free diets, due to the fact that they’re made with rice and corn, not wheat. That would be fine, except that their Cinnamon and Honey Nut varieties are 27 and 28 percent sugar by weight, surpassing the 25 percent limit that the government is trying to impose on food marketers.
Your healthy alternative: On a gluten-free diet? You can still grab a quick breakfast. Opt for protein-rich hard-boiled eggs, or whip up a batch of easy, no-wheat pancakes and freeze them. You can reheat them in the oven or microwave on busy mornings, and they taste just as good as fresh-made.
Quaker Oats Oh!s
The bad news: It’s bad enough that the friendly, wholesome Quaker is pushing a cereal that’s 44 percent sugar by weight, making it one of the worst cereals on EWG’s list. But to make matters worse, the first ingredient listed on the package isn’t oats at all but refined corn flour, which has little nutritional value and high levels of pesticide residues; 80 percent of all packaged foods contain genetically modified ingredients (like corn) that are bred to resist heavy applications of harmful pesticides.
Your healthy alternative: Again, oatmeal is your better bet here. If you like having something crunchy and sweet, top it with a few tablespoons of an organic granola, such as Ambrosial Granola Venetian Vineyard, elected as Preventionmagazine’s Healthiest Cereal of 2011.
Frosted Flakes, Regular and Reduced Sugar
The bad news: Genetically modified, milled corn flakes coated with sugar are bound to be unhealthy, and, it turns out, even the Reduced Sugar version isn’t g-r-r-r-r-eat, either. The “reduced” sugar version contains 8 grams, just 3 less than the 11 grams of sugar in Frosted Flakes original, and both cereals surpass the 25 percent sugar-by-weight limit that the federal government would like cereal manufacturers to abide by.
Your healthy alternative: Broaden your horizons a little and look for heirloom-grain flakes. Nature’s Path Heritage Flakes use the same healthy kamut wheat as their Kamut Puffs, along with spelt, barley, millet and quinoa, all of which boast a healthier nutrition profile than milled corn.
The bad news: Fruity, cocoa, marshmallow—these pebbles are best reserved for decoration than eating. In addition to the fact that they all contain as much sugar as three Chips Ahoy! cookies (11 grams)—and are 37 percent sugar by weight—thefood dyes used in these cereals (as well as most of the others in this list) have been linked to hyperactivity and attention-deficit disorder in children.
Your healthy alternative: Smoothies, oatmeal topped with fruit, the aforementioned fruit-filled grainless cereals, and pretty much anything containing real fruit are a step up from these day-glo sugar bits. Adding colorful berries and fruits to pancakes or oatmeal will give you some ADHD-free color variety, as well.