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Archive for the ‘cereal’ Category

The 4 Biggest Nutritional Hoaxes

I believe the four foods and beverages below have enjoyed an unwarranted nutritional halo for too long.

While not equivalent to soda and trans fat-laden fast food, they are nevertheless not the nutrition all-stars we have been made to believe. The time for an objective analysis has come.

In no particular order:

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Kellogg’s Misleads And, Yes, Farmwashes

Time to check in with one of Big Food’s latest campaigns. In this instance, we turn our attention to Kellogg’s, which has rolled out quite the online defense of their various cereal lines.

How do you make sugary, genetically modified, minimally nutritious products appear wholesome and a “great start to the day”? Behold:

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2011: A Year to Remember (and Forget!)

It wasn’t until I started compiling stories for this post that I realized just how much had taken place this year on issues of food, agriculture, and nutrition. While by no means a definitive list, I think it covers the most substantial events.

So, if you’ve been spelunking in Antarctica for the past twelve months — or just want a short trip down memory lane — let’s review 2011, the year where:
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3 (More) Examples of Food Industry Deception

As with computer operating systems or software programs, it is imperative to consistently update your Big Food BS detector.  Below, I decode three of the latest misleading declarations making the rounds.

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Big Food’s “Wholesome” Deception

Defined as “conducive to bodily health; healthful; salubrious,” the word ‘wholesome’ counts “nourishing” and “nutritious” among its synonyms. It appears Big Food is blissfully ignorant to these facts, at least based on the horrific “kids’ food” concoctions they have branded as “wholesome”. Behold the worst offenders:

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Fiber One’s Fiber Fallacies

In General Mills’ extensive product catalog, Fiber One is the health and wellness darling.  What started out as a standalone cereal in 1985 is now an expanded line that includes bars, breads, brownies, cottage cheese, muffin and pancake mixes, ready-to-eat muffins, and even yogurt.  According to Susan Crocket, General Mills’ senior technology officer for health and nutrition, high-fiber offerings in the General Mills lineup (including Fiber One), are successful because they “actually taste good so people will actually eat [them]“.

Fiber One products are essentially marketed as a “one-stop shop” for fiber needs.  One of the company’s main selling points is that a mere half-cup of their original cereal offers 14 grams of dietary fiber (56% of the low-end of the daily recommended 25 – 35 gram range).

Consider me not enthused, for two reasons.  First, the Fiber One website resorts to misleading tactics and inaccurate figures to showcase their products.  Second, some of their products contain questionable ingredients and less-than-desireable nutrition values.

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Nutrition Lies and the Lying Food Industries That Tell Them

Four of the biggest food industries — dairy, beef, soda, and cereal — will stop at nothing to sell their products, whether by downplaying negative health effects, making misleading claims, or simply stating false facts.

What follows is a cornucopia of misleading and untruthful statements I have encountered.

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Why “Eat This, Not That!” Is Not “All That”

The Eat This, Not That! books, co-authored by Men’s Health editor-in-chief David Zinczenko and nutrition editor Matt Goulding, spawned from a popular monthly feature in Men’s Health magazine and quickly became best-sellers (last year, the Eat This, Not That! iPhone app achieved half a million downloads in two weeks.)

As of now, there are nine different editions (most of them boasting a “the no-diet, weight-loss solution” banner somewhere on the cover), including Drink This, Not That! and a children’s version.  The common theme among all of them: pit two similar food products or fast food items against one another and select one as the better choice (AKA: award it the “eat this!” command).

This is a gimmick meant solely to sell books, not communicate a message of health and proper nutrition.

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Trix = Twizzlers + Flintstone Multivitamin + Corn Dust. Really.

I often joke that many “kids’ cereals” (an euphemism for neon-colored sugar puffs) are the nutritional equivalent of candy and a multivitamin.

Upon sharing that observation on Twitter and Facebook earlier today, one of my followers expressed a curiosity to see a side-by-side nutritional comparison of these two foods.  What a wonderful idea!   I gladly accepted the request and, well, turns out my snarkiness is very based in reality.

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Ah, Of Course… Strawberry FLAVOR

Picture-64Kellogg’s Smart Start Strawberry Oat Bites promises “strawberry flavor in every bite”.  And, well, technically that’s correct.

Here is what the ingredient list reveals:

Strawberry flavored crunchlets (sugar, corn cereal, corn syrup, modified cornstarch, soybean oil, citric acid, glycerin, natural and artificial flavor, red #40, blue #1)

Did you hear that?  That was the sound of consumers across the country getting a vicious processed-food slap across their faces.

Sorry, Kellogg’s, the cutesy “crunchlets” term doesn’t take away from the fact that this cereal has as much in the way of real strawberries as a Big Mac.

The actual cereal has whole grains as the first two ingredients, but it also contains Splenda (the latest trick to adding a jolt of sweetness while keeping sugar values low on the Nutrition Facts label).

This, by the way, is considered one of the “healthier” big-food-company cereals.  Gulp.

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Numbers Game: Answer

chocolate-cheerios1A cup of Frosted Cheerios contains 11.5 more grams of sugar than a cup of original Cheerios.

That, by the way, equals an entire tablespoon of added sugar.

Not all Cheerios are created equal.  Check out how much added sugar you get in a cup of each of the different varieties:

  • Original: 1 gram (1/4 teaspoon)
  • Multigrain: 6 grams (1.5 teaspoons)
  • Oat Cluster Crunch, Triple Berry Berry Burst: 10 grams (2.5 teaspoons)
  • Banana Nut, Chocolate, Fruity, Honey Nut, Strawberry Yogurt Burst, Vanilla Yogurt Burst: 11.25 grams (2.8 teaspoons)
  • Frosted: 12.5 grams (3.1 teaspoons)
  • Apple Cinnamon: 13.75 grams (3.4 teaspoons)

No, the fact that the apple-cinnamon variety is partially sweetened with “apple puree concentrate” does not make it healthier.  Besides — sugar, brown sugar, and corn syrup show up on the ingredient list before apple puree concentrate.

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Numbers Game: Cheerios and Jeerios

oc_fc_product_photo2A cup of Frosted Cheerios contains _____ more grams of sugar than a cup of conventional Cheerios.

a) 8
b) 4.5
c) 11.5
d) 9.75

Leave your guess in the “comments” section and come back on Saturday for the answer.

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Health Hype on Aisle 5!

gogurtAh, that ubiquitous marketing tactic known as the “health halo” appears to be multiplying.

You know the drill.  Take minimally nutritious food, sprinkle one fiftieth of a pinch of “something healthy”, and market the living *bleep* out of said ingredient on the product’s packaging.

Consider these recently-spotted offenders:

  • Cinnamon Chex.  “With a touch of real cinnamon,” no less.  Cinnamon offers fiber, manganese, and heart-healthy phytonutrients and antioxidants.  Alas, this cereal contains more sugar, oil, and salt than it does the sweet spice.
  • Betty Crocker Quick Banana Bread Mix.  “With real bananas,” the box touts.  The bananas are in there, alright.  As dried flakes.  Right after white flour, sugar, and partially hydrogenated oils.  PS: Each of the finished product’s twelve servings offers up an entire gram of trans fat.
  • Yoplait Go-Gurt Strawberry Splash & Berry Blue Blast portable yogurt flavor-combination packs. There isn’t a single strawberry or blueberry in either yogurt, not even in dehydrated or powdered form.  Instead, we get artificial dyes (the same ones banned by the European Union) and flavors.
  • Oscar Mayer Lunchables Sub Sandwich, Turkey and Cheddar.  This is described as “more wholesome” than previous varieties.  Does this ingredient list scream “wholesome” to you?

Thank you to Small Bites intern Laura Smith for valuable assistance with this post.

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Numbers Game: Answer

Golden+CrispWhich of these cereals offers three and a half teaspoons of added sugar (that’s more than a tablespoon; as much as four Oreo cookies) per half cup serving?

The dubious honor goes to Golden Crisp cereal, which offers 14 grams of sugar per half cup!

PS: Next time you eat cereal, pour yourself a half cup so you can appreciate what a small amount that is.  Chances are, the average person serving themselves Golden Crisp eats at least one full cup (over two tablespoons of added sugar).

A look at the ingredient list tells the tale:

“Sugar, wheat, corn syrup, honey, caramel color, salt, fortified vitamins and minerals”

That has to be one of the junkiest cereal ingredient lists I have ever seen.  You might as well eat a Crunch bar and down a multivitamin.

Here are how other popular cereals measure up against Golden Crisp in terms of added sugar grams per half-cup:

  • Honey Smacks: 10 grams (two and a half teaspoons)
  • Lucky Charms: 7.3 grams (just shy of two teaspoons)
  • Cocoa Pebbles: 6 grams (one and a half teaspoons)
  • Apple Jacks: 4 grams (one teaspoon)
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Numbers Game: Sugar In A Bowl!

monitoring-sugar-in-your-diet_300x200-139955Which of these cereals offers four teaspoons of added sugar (that’s more than a tablespoon; as much as four Oreo cookies) per half cup serving?

a) Golden Crisp
b) Lucky Charms
c) Cocoa Pebbles
d) Apple Jacks
e) Honey Smacks

Leave your guess in the “comments” section and come back on Tuesday for the answer.

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