A new Twinkies Cereal is expected to hit grocery shelves this month.
Experts say the cereal may rival the actual snack cakes for sugar content.
Instead of turning to sugary cereals, experts suggest giving kids protein for breakfast is a better bet.
Most parents would never consider giving their kids Twinkies for breakfast. But now, the Hostess snack cakes are making serious move into morning meals in the form of Twinkies Cereal.
Post Consumer Brands and Hostess Brands recently announced that the new product would hit grocery store shelves around the country this month. It’s the latest product from a collaboration between the two companies, which have already released Donettes and Honey Buns cereals.
No surprise: Twinkies Cereal doesn’t boast much in the way of nutrition. But just how bad is it?
Experts warn that Twinkies Cereal might be just as unhealthy as the classic golden sponge cakes themselves.
A bowl of sugar for breakfast?
At press time, Post Consumer Brands had only released an early version of the nutrition facts label for Twinkies Cereal, which could change once the product reaches customers. The company also did not respond to an emailed request for comment.
However, the nutritional information is similar to that of Donettes and Honey Bun cereals, giving clues as to what to expect from Twinkies Cereal.
Experts point to the sugar content as one of the biggest nutritional concerns they have about Twinkies Cereal. The preliminary nutrition label for Twinkies Cereal shows that a cup of the puffs contains 180 calories and 16 grams of sugar.
“The first ingredient of Twinkies Cereal is dextrose, which is sugar made from corn, and the second ingredient is just sugar, so you’re eating cereal that’s made up of more sugar than flour,” said Dr. Dyan Hes, medical director of Gramercy Pediatrics in New York City and director of the American Board of Obesity Medicine.
Compared with a pair of the snack cakes, which contain 270 calories and 33 grams of sugar per package, Twinkies Cereal seems like a better choice for sugar-conscious customers. But your opinion may change when you consider how much cereal a child eats on average at breakfast.
“What child or teenager only consumes 1 cup of cereal? Most kids consume 1.5 to 2 cups of cereal in the real world,” said Nicole Magryta, RD, author of “Nourish Your Tribe: Empowering Parents to Grow Strong, Smart, Successful Kids.”
Two cups of Twinkies Cereal brings the calorie count to 360 and the sugar content to 32 grams — 7 grams more than the maximum amount of added sugar the American Heart Association recommends kids consume in a day.
Magryta also expressed concern over the fat in Twinkies Cereal. A cup of it contains 7 grams of fat, 6 of which are from saturated fat. A pair of Twinkies cakes, on the other hand, contain 9 grams of total fat, of which 4.5 grams are saturated fat.
“The ingredients in both Twinkies Cereal and cakes are doing absolutely nothing to benefit our health and, if anything, are damaging it,” Magryta said. “We don’t need more products like this on grocery store shelves.”
Twinkies Cereal does have one advantage over the cakes, however: It’s fortified with some vitamins and minerals. A cup of the cereal contains 25 percent of the recommended amount of iron, 60 percent of the recommended amount of thiamin, and 10 percent of the recommended amounts of niacin, vitamin B6, and zinc, among other nutrients.
Despite this benefit, Twinkies Cereal isn’t much better than eating the original sponge cakes for breakfast, according to experts.
“Never feeding them to your children is the better option,” Hes said.
Marketing sugary cereals to kids
Ready-to-eat cereals are one of the highest sources of added sugars in the diets of kids and teens, according to a 2018 studyTrusted Source published in the journal Nutrients.
Parents who wish to steer kids toward less sugary cereals are up against highly influential advertising aimed at kids.
A 2012 report from Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity found that cereal companies spent in $264 million in 2011 marketing children’s cereals. The breakfast cereals targeting kids had 56 percent more sugar, 52 percent less fiber and 50 percent more sodium than those aimed at adults.
Those advertisements have a direct relationship to the amount of cereal kids eat. Researchers at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Norris Cotton Cancer Center found that children were more likely to eat sugary cereals after seeing ads for them on TV.
“Children don’t have the cognitive capabilities to understand what manipulative marketing is doing to them,” said Magryta.
Healthier breakfast alternatives
It’s yet to be seen how Twinkies Cereal will be advertised and whether or not it’s intentionally targeting children. In the meantime, experts recommend that parents find less sugary cereals to serve at breakfast.
“There are healthy cereals, but Twinkies Cereal is not one of them,” said Hes. “I love Cheerios, Wheat Chex, Quaker Oats Squares and Special K — they’re low in sugar, most have more fiber, and they’re fortified.”
She also recommended mixing one part sweet cereal (like Twinkies Cereal) to three parts Grape Nuts or another less sweet cereal to give kids some of what they’re craving without doing as much damage.
Magryta encourages parents to skip most cereals altogether and instead start their kids’ day with steel cut oatmeal, eggs, turkey sausage, smoothies, or toast with cottage cheese or avocado.
“I recommend more protein and healthy fats in the morning to help balance blood sugar and feel fuller longer,” she said.
The most important thing, according to Hes, is to make sure kids have something to eat early in the day.
“Studies show that kids who eat breakfast do better at school,” she said. “So if all you have is Twinkies Cereal in the cabinet, it’s better than nothing.”