Friday, February 19, 2010

Who writes this stuff, anyway?--a mega-big- Did I just read that?!

I've argued before that cold cereal is nutritionally not much better (and perhaps worse) than ice cream for breakfast. It's also loaded with preservatives and artificial colors that the food scientists insist are safe (studies paid for by the people who benefit most from the preservatives) but that anecdotal evidence comes in truckloads indicating there are problems.

But they have to sell it somehow, right? Even though almost every mom knows sugar cereal is junk food (I haven't ever compared it to a chocolate candy bar.....hmmmm....I wonder....).

To sell, they get kids addicted and then try to make it look like a good idea to parents.

And Kelloggs has gone almost too far this time. We bought a bunch of Kellogg's cereals as a treat because they were seriously on sale. And I have read the boxes in disbelief, and outright laughter, for a couple of days now.

Take this direct quote, from the side of the Cocoa Krispies: "How About a Bedtime Snack? When you pour a bowl of Kellogg's Cocoa Krispies Cereal, you'll be giving your kids something simple that you can feel good about. The light, crispy, and satisfying cereal is the perfect bedtime snack."

Seriously? I had to read to twice to see if it really said that.


Someone thinks Cocoa Krispies makes a good bedtime snack? 12 g of sugar, 15 g of other carbs, 150 mg of sodium, and  next to no protein. And that's for 3/4 c. Most kids eat more than that in a bowl (the FDA, by the  way, is working on changing the labeling from being prescriptive to descriptive so people know what they're actually eating). That's like scooping almost a tablespoon of sugar into your kids' mouths right before bed. A mini candybar has less sugar! (about 10 g).

If I gave my kids 3/4 c Cocoa Krispies at bedtime, they wouldn't go to bed! They'd get the sugar high and run around, then fight, and then fall into bed about 45 minutes late in tears, and me angry from breaking up fights and trying to get people into bed for an hour.

And, since kids my children's age need only 1400-1600 calories a day, the "recommended" amount of cereal would constitute 7.5%-8.5% of their daily caloric needs. Given that the kids likely ate their recommended daily calories during the day, that's an awful lot of calories for a bedtime snack. If you add the 73 calories that half a cup of whole milk (what toddlers are supposed to drink, so my whole family drinks), your child is taking in a bedtime snack that has 193 calories in it, or between 12% and 13.8% of their daily calories. And that's if they eat the recommended amount. I know my 8 year old eats twice that in a bowl of cereal--amounting to a bedtime snack of fully 1/4 the calories he's supposed to eat during the day, which I assume is actually in addition to what he needed, not to fill a lack he had after 3 meals plus 3 or more healthy snacks.

In contrast, there are about 40 calories in half an apple, or just over 2% of the daily calories.

Yeah. That sounds like the PERFECT bedtime snack.

(The same box of cereal recommends rice krispie treats as an afternoon snack.  I'm not sure that Kellogg's understands the difference between "snack" and "treat". Snacks, in my world, as supposed to be light, healthy pick-me-ups between meals. Treats are supposed to come after you've eaten something healthy--more than one bite, and not every time you eat something healthy, either, much to the chagrin of my 4 year old.).

Then--same box panel, mind you--you get this lovely sentence; "Note: For nutrition and other great recipes, visit:"  I guess they think the internet is nutritious? You can now download vitamins and minerals right into your blood stream? That would be cool. But even if that worked, I'm not so sure I'd look for nutrition at That's like going to for dinner. Or here:

And that's not the only ludicrous box.

Most of them say on the front, really big, "Now provides FIBER."  Tim looked at that and said what I was thinking. "What did it used to have in it?"  I mean, really--cold cereal is supposed to be a grain product. You'd think fiber was included in that, but apparently not. (And, in reality, it still doesn't. 3 g of fiber is still only 10% of the RDA.  An apple has 5 g of fiber).

There is also a lovely box on the front of the cereal with a checkmark in it that says, "Smart Choices Program Guiding Food Choices" like eating Apple Jacks is a smart food choice. I hate to break it to them, but sayin' it doesn't make it so.

The side panel of the Apple Jacks has this great sentence on it: "Now Kellogg provides fiber to the great-tasting cereals your kids love!"

This brings to mind a person offering a spoonful of metamucil powder to a cereal box. They provide it to the cereal, but not to the kids, apparently. And what's the name of the company, anyway--Kellogg or Kellogg's? I always thought it was the latter....

Finally, the big text on the side of the box: "Family life is better when your kids are Healthy! Fiber is an essential part of a healthy diet. That's because fiber helps keep the digestive system healthy so it can absorb nutrients." Aside from the fact that this was printed in 5 different sizes in 3 different fonts, it is a perfect example of the way propaganda works. Advertisers have to tell the truth, and they make the strongest claims they legally can. So they often do what they did here: state some vague truths, like Fiber is important, and hope you'll finish the thought and connect it to their product. They can't claim the cereal is good for you, so they say fiber is and we provide fiber (even though it's a tiny amount, especially when paired with all the junk in there). They also mention nutrients and hope you'll assume that means "from our cereal." But there aren't many nutrients in there, especially considering the amount of calories and sugar you get.....

It also says (in a big oval on top of the box), "Made with 9 g of whole grain." Yeah. In the whole box, that doesn't account for much.

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