Environmental Working Group

  1. Common cereals are more than 40 percent sugar

    Instead of changing your own habits here in 2012, make one change for someone else: your kids.

    Stop giving them cereal.

    Even the healthiest cereals are usually just a blend of different kinds of carbs: sugar and some of the worst grains imaginable (and don't believe those "made with whole grains" labels -- because that doesn't make this stuff any healthier).

    Some cereals are more than half sugar.

    Environmental Working Group recently took a closer look at the ingredients labels of some of the most common and popular cereals and found that both Kellogg's Honey Smacks and Post Golden Crisp are more than half sugar by weight -- 55.6 percent and 51.9 percent, respectively.

    Number three was almost there -- Kellogg's Froot Loops Marshmallow is 48.3 percent sugar.

    Froot Loops by itself was already heavy in sugar (41.4 percent, coming in at number 10) -- but when they added the marshmallows, they went for the record… and actually fell just a little short.

    Better luck next time, Team Froot Loop.

    And the Quaker Oats man, who's supposed to represent old-fashioned purity? He's actually responsible for FOUR of the top ten most sugar-soaked cereals: three flavors of Cap'n Crunch and something called Oh!s, which appear to be sugar-coated Cheerios.

    You can see the full report here, which also features some helpful comparisons -- like the fact that those Honey Smacks contain more sugar than a Hostess Twinkie.

    Even the healthy-sounding Wheaties Fuel -- breakfast of champions, but with "fuel," right? -- has more sugar than that Twinkie.

    And a single cup of Honey Nut Cheerios has more sugar than three Chips Ahoy chocolate chip cookies.

    When a Twinkie or Chips Ahoy cookies turn out to be the better choice, you know you created something special.

    EWG has some alternatives for parents looking for better options -- like unfrosted Mini Wheats and original Kix, which I think refers to the kicking and screaming kids do when they find out their Honey Smacks have been replaced by a "healthier" option.

    In reality, cereal in general isn't a healthy option for breakfast. If you're in charge of mornings in your house, cook up something fresh each day instead -- make it something all of you can eat together, and everybody wins.

  2. Apples top pesticide list

    I know it feels like summer has only just begun, but fall is right around the corner -- and that means apple season is almost here.

    Don't be fooled by the apples you'll find in the supermarket year 'round -- most of them are actually months old... and you won't believe the tricks they use to keep them fresh.

    The guy in the produce department will tell you that the secret is cold storage -- but those apples aren't just placed in a giant fridge somewhere.

    They're also given a massive dose of pesticides after they're harvested in order to prevent mold, blight, rot, and stains during that storage period.

    They're pumped so full of chemicals that a recent study based on government data found at least two pesticides on 92 percent of all apple samples even after they were washed and peeled.

    And 98 percent of more than 700 apple samples tested by the USDA had at least one pesticide.

    As a result, apples were placed on top of the Environmental Working Group's "dirty dozen," a list of fruits and vegetables that contain the highest levels of pesticides.

    EWG says apples are followed by celery, strawberries, peaches, spinach, imported nectarines, imported grapes, sweet bell peppers, potatoes, domestic blueberries, lettuce, and kale.

    If you can't afford to buy everything organic – and these days, who can? -- make sure you at least go organic for those.

    While there's not a lot of research on what a low-but-steady stream of pesticides can do to a person, we do know that higher doses can cause cancer and hormonal problems.

    Some studies have found that farm workers exposed to pesticides on the job have a higher risk of Parkinson's disease. And in pregnant women and children, pesticide exposure has been linked to low birth weight, brain damage, ADHD, and even lower intelligence later in life.

    But the news from the produce aisle isn't all bad. EWG also found a number of fruits and vegetables so low in pesticides that you don't have to buy organic.

    They call them the Clean 15: onions, corn, pineapples, avocado, asparagus, sweet peas, mangoes, eggplant, domestic cantaloupe, kiwi, cabbage, watermelon, sweet potatoes, grapefruit, and mushrooms.

    The organization has a helpful guide you can print, clip and bring to the supermarket.

    It's just about the only time you might need to compare apples and grapefruit.

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