Cereal manufacturers aren’t getting the message their products are too high in sugar. The sugar hit in many kids’ breakfast cereals has barely changed since we last looked at these products. Six cereals had even more sugar than they used to, with one packing a whopping 30 percent increase.

A nutritious breakfast is the best way for your child to start the day. Studies show breakfast is associated with a healthy body weight and better nutrient intake. In addition, children are more likely to be hungry mid-morning and snack on unhealthy foods if they skip breakfast. Skipping breakfast can also negatively impact academic performance and mood.

When we looked at breakfast cereals marketed to kids in 2008 and 2013, we found many products were high in sugar and salt, and low in fibre. Our latest survey of 50 cereals has found companies have cut the sodium but it’s a different story when it comes to sugar.

What we found

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About our survey

We analysed the labels of 50 cereals that appeal to children using bright packaging, cartoon characters, promotional activities and sweet flavours, as well as some healthy options commonly eaten by children (such as wheat biscuits and porridge). We didn’t include all brands of porridge or wheat biscuits in our survey because they all have similar nutrition information.

Where possible, we’ve compared the sugar, sodium and fibre content with previous surveys. We’ve also calculated the health star rating and used green, orange and red symbols to show the sugar and sodium in the products. A red symbol means the product is high in sugar or sodium; green means the food has low amounts of it; orange fits somewhere in between.

There’s not a lot of fat or saturated fat in most of these cereals so we haven’t included fat or saturated fat in our survey.

Our criteria are:

  • Sugar (g/100g):
    Green ≤5
    Orange 5.1-22.5
    Red >22.5.

  • Sodium (mg/100g):
    Green ≤120
    Orange 121-600
    Red >600.

Our criteria have been developed by UK health agencies.

We say

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Report by Belinda Castles.