Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


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What is “real” food?

I was about to do some dreaded yoga the other day and YouTube always makes you sit through an ad before you get your video. This time the ad caught my attention.

A bunch of cute kids identifying foods. Intended to elicit our horror at the inability of children to recognize peppers while quickly naming chicken nuggets. Sure, it’s sad that many kids don’t recognize vegetables. What got me though was the fact that this was an ad for Kashi!

Kashi, a brand that sells highly processed cereals and granola bars, chock-full of ingredients that are likely unrecognizable as “real” food by the majority of the population, not just cute children.

For example, here’s the ingredient list for their classic¬†Go Lean cereal:

Puffed seven whole grains and sesame cereal (hard red wheat, brown rice, honey, cane syrup, barley, triticale, oats, rye, buckwheat, sesame seeds), corn flour, expeller pressed soy grits, corn meal, cane syrup, expeller pressed soy protein, oat hull fibre, wheat bran, soy flour, corn bran, seven whole grains & sesame flour (whole: oats, hard red wheat, rye, brown rice, triticale, barley, buckwheat, sesame seed), salt, natural flavour, annatto colour.

Lots of grains, sure. There’s also sugar in there three times. And how about expeller pressed soy protein as a recognizable “real” food. Or “annatto colour”? Yep, whole grains, and a whole bunch of irony in Kashi products.


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Another salt study

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This headline made me cringe: Bread and cereal highest contributors to children’s salt intake: Study.
One, because we’ve known this for years, and it doesn’t just apply to children. In Western nations most people obtain the majority of their sodium from bread products.

Two, as the director of the Federation of Bakers points out toward the end of the article, it’s not because bread contains high amounts of salt, per se, it’s because people consume large quantities of bread products. Despite the focus of the article (and apparently the researchers) on pushing the food industry to lower amounts of salt in bread, it’s unlikely that this is the best response. For one thing, the industry is likely to replace the salt with something else that will turn out to be worse for us. For another, we should be focusing on encouraging people to consume a variety of foods, particularly those that are minimally processed, rather than emphasizing reformulating current packaged foods. Different bread is not the answer, less bread is.


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Grocery store lessons: Honey Bunches of Oats Greek Yogurt Honey Crunch

greek-yogurt-honey-crunch

I’ve noticed a proliferation of Greek yoghurt “product” on grocery store shelves recently. Capitalizing on the popularity of Greek yoghurt, the food industry is now making “Greek yoghurt” cereals and granola bars. But do these products provide you with the same benefits (i.e. protein and probiotics) as eating actual Greek yogurt does?

One of these products is Honey Bunches of Oats Greek Yogurt Honey Crunch. Essentially, this is a flake-type cereal with a smidgen of yoghurt flavouring. “Greek yogurt powder” is the 20th ingredient; not exactly prominent. It’s also important to note that it’s a powder. Even if this “yogurt” still contained any live probiotics (which is highly unlikely) the miniscule amount included in this product is not enough to provide you with any of the health benefits you would obtain from eating actual Greek yoghurt. The same goes for protein. There is only four grams of protein in a 3/4 cup serving of this cereal. In comparison to plain Greek yoghurt which can have as much as 18 grams of protein per serving, and even flavoured Greek yoghurt which generally has 8 grams of protein, this is not a whole lot of protein. To put this in perspective, Shredded Wheat (which consists solely of wheat) contains six grams of protein per serving.

Aside from the yoghurt factor, looking at the overall nutrition profile of the cereal, it’s still not a great choice. The second ingredient is sugar. Keeping aware that sugar is also included in other forms and ingredients further down the ingredient list, it may actually be the most abundant ingredient in this cereal.¬†Honey Bunches of Oats Greek Yogurt Honey Crunch boasts that it’s a “source of fibre”. Um… 3 grams of fibre in a cereal is nothing to boast about.

My advice: don’t fall for these Greek yoghurt products. If you want to obtain the nutritional benefits of Greek yoghurt, eat actual Greek yoghurt.


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Lessons from the Grocery Store: Multi-Grain Cheerios

I went to pick-up some delicious energy gels for my impending marathon. At the running store I was given a sample of Multi-Grain Cheerios and a little booklet with a coupon. While Multi-Grain Cheerios are far from the worst cereal you could be eating, they’re definitely not the best either.

I found it interesting that the sample provided was 20 grams. That’s not a whole lotta cereal. I would eat at least a cup (a little bit more than 30 grams) and I’d probably be hungry in less than an hour. That’s because I’d probably be consuming fewer than 200 calories. Great for a snack but not for a meal, especially breakfast which is the foundation of the day.

Cheerios main claim to fame (which is debatable) is the cholesterol lowering properties of oat fibre. By creating a multi-grain cereal they’ve pretty much eliminated that benefit of their cereal. Whole grains are definitely the best form in which to get your grains but that doesn’t necessarily mean that any food made from whole grains is going to be healthy. These Multi-Grain Cheerios boast that they’re made from five whole grains. Great, but when you look at the ingredient list the first “whole grain” is corn, next is wheat. The third ingredient is not even a grain. Can you guess what it is? That’s right, sugar! Followed by oat, hulled barley, and rice. Call me crazy, but I don’t think that sugar should be one of the main ingredients in your breakfast. In my mind, whole grains should also be, well, whole. If you’re consuming them as processed flour, as in these Cheerios, you’re doing better than if you were eating white flour, but only a little bit. They’re still processed whole grains and they have all that added salt and sugar to make them palatable. Try going for a truly whole grain cereal like steel-cut oats or quinoa (yep, you can eat it like oatmeal), Red River, or if you prefer a cold cereal go for something like shredded wheat, the only ingredient is wheat.