Food in focus: Cheerios

Like most toddlers I know, MissC is obsessed with cheerios. The box sits on our kitchen counter and is pointed at several times a day with a request for 'nums'. These requests rank only below 'nana' and above the other frequently requested food 'cheese'.
As I dole out another handful of cheerios, I often look at the boxes reassurance that it is wholegrain and 'free of artificial colours and flavorings' and wonder how good for her they really are.

The breakdown
Category: grains.
Recommended toddler intake of grains is 85 grams a day.  The serving size on the packet is 30g. MissC's actual serving size is about 15 grams for a snack. Cheerios is a good contributor to their intake of grains for the day.

Energy density
Toddlers need between 4184 - 5858kj a day (1000 - 1400 calories) a day. Cheerio calories per serving 490kj (117 calories), this is considered an acceptable amount of calories for a snack and would be an acceptable amount of calories for breakfast if paired with milk and fruit.

Per 100g
Fat 3.8g For best nutrition, foods should generally contain less than 5g.
Saturated fat: 0.2g For best nutrition, foods should contain less than 1g.
Sugar: 14.7g. Foods should generally contain less than 10g.
Sodium 300mg. Foods should contain less than 300mg.
 *Colours according to traffic light system.

Other nutrition
Fibre is  2.2g per serve so despite assurances that it is wholegrain, it is not considered a 'high fiber' product (3-6g).
Product also has the heart foundation tick which according to their website means in comparison to other products in the category it must decrease levels of fat, sodium or energy density and increase levels of one of the following dietary fiber/vegetables/whole grains; protein or % ingredients

Overall impression
Overall cheerios falls into the amber category of the traffic light system. That is a processed food with some nutritional value but containing moderate values of added fat, sugar or salt and can in large serves contribute to excessive energy intake. Intake should be limited.

Better options
If being used for breakfast a better grain option is a true wholegrain cereal such as wheat biscuits, porridge or untoasted muesli. Other green alternatives for breakfast are eggs, a low sugar plain or flavoured yoghurt, fruit, nuts, wholemeal bread and other bread products.
Better snack options within the grain category include high fiber breads or rolls; English muffins; pita bread, raisin/fruit bread; plain corn and rice cakes and crispbreads

Cheerios Nutrition
Healthy Options WA: Traffic Light Criteria (online)
Healthy Options WA; Food and Nutrition Policy for WA Health Services and Families. 2009.
Healthy Options WA: Commonly Supplied Food and Drinks Guide. 2011.
Heart Foundation Tick: Tick Criteria.
Queensland Government. Guideline for Reading Food Labels. 2009.


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