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Wednesday, May 26, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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How to read package labels, calculate sugar content

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Package labels tell you how much sugar a cereal contains. The following will help you interpret what you find:

• Sugar can come in several forms, among them corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, brown-sugar syrup and simply sugar.

• Total sugars are shown in grams per serving, listed in the Nutrition Facts box.

4 grams of sugar equals 1 teaspoon. This means the 15 grams of sugar in a serving of regular Froot Loops equals 3 ¾ teaspoons, while the 10 grams in a serving of the reduced-sugar version equals 2 ½ teaspoons.

A teaspoon of sugar equals 15 calories. Thus 56 (nearly half) of the 120 calories in a serving of regular Froot Loops come from sugar, while 36 of the calories in a serving of the reduced-sugar version come from sugar (serving sizes vary, see below).

The serving size listed on the box may not be the amount you actually eat. Often, people eat more.

Serving sizes are not the same for all cereal products. For example, General Mills' Count Chocula lists 1 cup as a serving, while Kellogg's Cocoa Rice Krispies lists ¾ cup.

Even the full-sugar and reduced-sugar versions of Froot Loops and Frosted Flakes list different serving sizes — ¾ cup in the case of regular Frosted Flakes, but 1 cup for the reduced-sugar version — though these different serving sizes weigh the same: 31 grams.

All of which could dish up a surprise if you were expecting to cut calories along with sugar in the reduced-sugar cereals. If you eat same-weight servings of both the regular and reduced-sugar versions, you'll consume the same number of calories.

If you actually ate exactly the same volume (not weight) of both varieties of Froot Loops, the calorie counts would differ: 120 calories in a cup of the full-sugar version versus 96 calories in a cup of the reduced-sugar version.

Sugar is only one of the nutrition features to consider when choosing a cereal. Others include fiber, fat and sodium levels and other nutrients listed on package labels.

Here are some per-serving sugar amounts in a number of cereals, in grams. These are from major companies, but also check out the products of smaller manufacturers.

Plain shredded wheat, any brand: 0

General Mills Cheerios: 1

Kellogg's Corn Flakes: 2

Kellogg's Rice Krispies: 3

General Mills Wheat Chex: 3

General Mills Wheaties: 4

Post Grape-Nuts: 5

Post Oreo O's: 11

General Mills Lucky Charms: 13

Kellogg's Cocoa Rice Krispies: 14

Kellogg's Apple Jacks: 15.

Post Raisin Bran: 19.7 (includes fruit sugars).

Sources: Product packages.

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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