Ten grams of sugar in your morning bowl of cereal may not sound like a lot. It's about three teaspoonfuls that add only 40 calories to the meal and an amount that is about the average sugar content for cereals in the United States. Unfortunately that amount of sugar represents a large portion of the serving and a significant percentage of the maximum amount of sugar you should eat each day.
Grams of Sugar
The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends that children consume no more than 48 g of sugar per day. If a bowl of cereal contains 10 g of added sugar, that's more than 20 percent of the daily allotment. The common three-quarter cup serving size of cereal may weigh from 30 to 50 g, so those 10 g of sugar make up as much as one-third of the total serving size. Cereals range in sugar content from virtually none to 15 g, and 10 g is about the average.
Americans eat too much sugar, and breakfast cereals in particular have come under fire, especially since cereal companies market many of their products for children. Some cereals are more than half sugar and contain an amount equivalent to that of a glazed doughnut. European versions of the same cereals that sell in the U.S. often contain less sugar than their American counterparts -- as much as 25 percent less.
In the past the cereal manufacturers' response to negative publicity about excessive sugar content has been to change the names of some of the worst offenders. Post's Super Sugar Crisp was renamed Golden Crisp and Kellogg's Sugar Smacks are now called Honey Smacks, but the levels of sugar in these cereals remained the same. On the positive side, cereal makers have correctly pointed out that their products generally contain a fair quantity of nutrients, are low in fat, and are excellent sources of dietary fiber. Late in 2010 General Mills and Post actually did reduce the amounts of sugar in their most popular brands. The new sugar levels are now less than 9 g, significantly below the 11 to 14 g they once contained.
Consumer Reports Ratings
In 2008, Consumer Reports published ratings of the top 27 cereals in terms of sales. The best ones, those with the least sugar and the most vitamins and fiber, all contained less than 10 g of sugar. The worst ones averaged about 12 g of sugar, and the ones in the middle group that the agency rated "good" average right around 10 g.