'Alarming' amounts of sugar found in cereals

Most of us start the day with cereal but few know just how much sugar is in our breakfast cereal

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In the second of my articles charting my progress since giving up refined sugar for Lent, I am looking at one of my hardest challenges.

My favourite meal is breakfast and other than porridge, I've found only two cereals I can eat: "No added sugar" muesli and Raisin Wheats.

A friend gave me a list of common breakfast cereals, compiled by Which? magazine, which shows the amount of sugar they contain. And it makes alarming reading.

Out of 100 cereals, only eight are classified as low in sugar by the Food Standards Authority.

A total of 95% of us have a box of breakfast cereal in our cupboard so I went to Manchester to speak to a nutritionist who works for one of the biggest cereal manufacturers.

"Sugar is in cereals to make them taste good but there isn't as much as the media would have you believe," says Kelloggs' nutritionist Rimi Obra-Ratwatte.

Kelloggs' nutritionist Rimi Obra-Ratwatte with old cereal packets Kelloggs' nutritionist Rimi Obra-Ratwatte says cereals are nutritious

"Even our higher sugar-containing cereals, such as Crunchy Nut Cornflakes, contain the equivalent of two to two-and-a-half teaspoons of sugar per bowl," she said.

"To give you some context, that's probably the same as in a glass of orange juice or a pot of fruit yoghurt, and pretty much the same as you'd have with jam and toast."

Sugar plays a dual role in this popular food.

As well as making the raw ingredients of wheat, corn and rice taste nicer, it also helps the cereal stay crisp and not disintegrate as soon as it hits the milk.

Kelloggs argues that its important cereals have an appealing taste because they're a source of nutrition.

Low in fat

Mrs Obra-Ratwatte adds: "Lots of the vitamins and minerals that we have in our diets come from breakfast cereals...and they're also low in fat and can be high in fibre, and they help to drive milk consumption which is really important especially for children."

Does there have to be quite so much sugar, though?

Sugar makes up more than a third of a box of Frosties for example.

Six years ago Kelloggs did try to bring out a lower sugar version of Frosties. What happened? We didn't buy it. It lasted less than a year on the market.

So the question is, who's influencing who here? Are the manufacturers influencing our palettes by making food sweeter or are we influencing food production by choosing to buy sweeter products?

Wednesday: Eleanor has a shock when her diet is analysed.

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