Before rushing off to school in the morning, many kids sit around the table to fuel up with the most important meal of the day. Unfortunately, one of the more common breakfast options—cereal—might have some unintended consequences for teeth.
Too much sugar at breakfast time isn’t a great way to start the day, and some cereals have more sugar than you might think. 2 out of 3 cereals marketed to children have more than a third of the recommended daily sugar intake in just one serving. When these refined sugars come into contact with teeth, dental plaque reacts with them to create acids. Over time and with enough exposure, those acids can cause cavities.
The good news for parents is that there are lots of ways to avoid this cavity-causing effect. Opting for healthier cereals is a great place to start. Look for low sugar options, preferably with four grams of sugar or less in one serving. You should also choose varieties made from whole grains to maintain nutrients like fibre, which stimulates saliva flow to help keep teeth clean. To navigate through the multitude of options, read the packaging, paying close attention to the valuable nutrition information that is typically on the back or the sides.
* How many sugar cubes are in a 40g serving of these cereals?
Frosties (Kellogg’s) – 3.7
Cocopops (Kellogg’s) – 3.5
Crunchy Nut (Kellogg’s) – 3.5
Krave (Kellogg’s) – 2.8
Cheerios (Nestle) – 2.1
Shreddies (Nestle) – 1.5
Rice Krispies (Kellogg’s) – 1
Shredded Wheat (Nestle) – 0.5
Ready Brek (Weetabix Ltd) – 0.5
Weetabix – 0.5
Each sugar cube is equivalent to 4g of sugar
We break down the cereals into three sugar classifications:
High sugar: Between 2.4 and 3.7 sugar cubes per serving. That also includes supermarket own brands including Frosted Flakes, Choco Rice and Honey Nut
Medium sugar: Between 1 and 2.2 sugar cubes per serving. That also includes supermarket own brands including Multigrain Hoops and Chocopops.
Healthier options: Half a sugar cube or less per serving. That also includes porridge and alternatives such as a boiled egg, scrambled egg or toast.
So why is this important???
Everyone has heard of the saying “breakfast is the most important part of the day”. however, could what we eat in the morning actually have an influence on this? Today many children eat sugar laden cereals for breakfast. Could this excessive sugar consumption be counteracting the health benefits of breakfast?
High levels of sugar consumed in the morning, blood sugar spikes then drops, signalling to your brain that you need more sugar. This can lead to a vicious cycle throughout the day of blood sugar highs and lows, which affect energy levels, concentration, and lead to consumption of other sugary foods
Regardless of which cereal you choose, there are ways to minimise the effects it can have on your teeth. Drinking milk after eating sugary breakfast cereals can help decrease your risk of cavities. It can also help to brush after your meal, to avoid drinking fruit juice and to only eat cereal at breakfast time instead of snacking throughout the day.
If you choose to limit the amount of sugary cereals you eat, make sure you’re still enjoying a hearty breakfast. Take a look at our list of alternatives that’ll give you the boost you need without hurting your teeth:
- Fruit – apples, berries, cherries, melons and pears
- Dairy products – yogurt, cottage cheese and cheese slices
- Protein – chicken, turkey and fish
- Eggs –poached, scrambled, omelets and crustless quiche
Top tips for parents
* Keep sugary drinks, snacks and treats to mealtime and have only occasionally
* Encourage your child to drink only water and milk between meals
* Always check labels for sugar content
* Get your child to brush their teeth twice a day
* Take your child to the dentist at least from the age of one