They are branded as healthy alternatives, with claims of being high in fiber or packed with vitamins on their packaging.
Still, experts warn that they can be loaded with sugar, which increases the risk of tooth decay and acidification.
MailOnline looked at 12 cereal brands and found that some of the UK’s bran, muesli and granolas, many of which carry health claims on the packaging, such as being made with whole grains, contain no artificial ingredients.
But some even contain almost twice as much sugar as Kellogg’s Coco Pops.
The worst offenders, all with 12g of sugar per 40g serving, are Kellogg’s Sultana Bran, Naturya Breakfast Boost Superberries, and Mornflake Crispy Muesli Fruity.
A MailOnline audit found that some of Britain’s healthier-looking breakfast cereals, many of which are listed as such in supermarkets, actually contain higher levels of sugar than, say, cocopops
The high sugar content is partly explained by the dried fruit in these breakfast options, such as raisins, golden berries and goji berries.
These are high in natural sugars – found in fruits, vegetables and milk.
Although the NHS does not set a limit on the amount of natural sugar an adult should have in a day, it can still lead to blood sugar spikes and, over time, weight gain and tooth decay.
But it says they shouldn’t consume more than 30 grams of free sugars — about seven sugar cubes — that are added to food and drink, or found in products like honey, fruit juice, and smoothies.
And the daily recommended free sugar intake for children aged seven to ten is 24 g.
Food manufacturers are not required to break down how much of the sugar content in their product is natural or added.
Other high sugar breakfast options sold in UK supermarkets include Nature’s Path Pumpkin Granola, Mornflake Crunchy Granola Original and Waitrose Free From Granola.
Each contains 10 to 11 g of sugar per 40 g serving.
For comparison, a 40g serving of Coco Pops contains only 6.8g of sugar. But that’s all added sugar.
A bowl of Nature Path’s Nice and Nobbly Berries Granola has the same amount of sugar as a bowl of Oreo O’s cereal — chocolate and vanilla flavored hoops and discs — which has 10.8g.
Dr. Duane Mellor, one of Britain’s leading dietitians, said the high sugar content in cereals often comes from syrups – which he says are added to prevent it from becoming soggy in milk.
“Too much of this free or added sugar is not great, as it can increase the risk of tooth decay and has been linked to higher energy intake, which can lead to weight gain and an increased risk of weight-related conditions,” he added please.
But Professor Gunter Kunle, an expert in nutrition at the University of Reading, said: ‘There’s always the demand [of] whether there is “healthy” and “unhealthy” sugar.
“For the body, the source of the sugar does not really matter, but it can matter whether it is absorbed quickly or not.”
However, he added: “Sugar embedded in a complex matrix – as in many fruits, for example – can be absorbed much more slowly, which is generally considered better and healthier.”
Nichola Ludlam-Raine, a dietitian and diabetes educator published in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, offered some advice on what to look for when choosing a cereal.
She said: “My advice would be to choose more plain cereals, or those labeled “no sugar added”.
‘If sweetness is required, add fruit or one of the 11 non-sugar sweeteners approved for use in the UK, for example natal stevia or Xylitol – both of which are virtually calorie free and do not compromise dental health.
“Breakfast cereals vary wildly when it comes to their nutritional content, and as a dietician I often tell people to look at the ingredients list rather than the nutrition label.”
‘You can see exactly what is in the box, starting with the largest ingredient.’
Rosie Martin, an NHS staff dietitian and member of the advisory board to plant-based health professionals, recommended whole grains.
She said, “A bowl of steel-cut or rolled oats like hot porridge or overnight oats provides several types of healthy fiber, as well as beta-glucan that can help lower your cholesterol.”
A spokesperson for Kellogg’s said: ‘Since 2011, Kellogg’s has eliminated 11,000 tons of sugar from consumers’ diets and reduced salt content by 60 percent. We continue to offer a wide range of cereals to meet the needs of our customers, whether that be a delicious treat cereal or a low sugar family cereal.
“Many of our breakfast cereals, including Coco Pops, Special K Original, Rice Krispies, and Corn Flakes, are classified as non-high in fat, salt, and sugar (non-HFSS) by the government’s own dietary standards.”
A Waitrose spokesperson said: ‘We are committed to reducing sugar in our products without compromising on taste or quality.
“We have already reduced the sugar in our breakfast cereal range by 20 percent and are selling a number of options with no added sugars. We have traffic light labels on all our breakfast cereals so that our customers can make an informed choice.”
A Weetabix spokesperson said: ‘We are proud that the vast majority of our products sold – 99 percent – do not contain high levels of saturated fat, sugar or salt.
“We also want consumers to make informed choices about our grains, so they all have a clear traffic light nutrition label on their packaging.
‘We have made good progress in recent years in improving the nutritional profile of our products, but we will not stop there. We are committed to exploring ways to further reduce sugar while preserving the flavor that makes Weetabix high-fiber, nutritious breakfast cereals so popular with consumers.”