March 3, 2008

Wolf In Sheep's Clothing: Fruit Cereals & Snacks

Relying on conventional cereals and snacks to provide fruit to your diet? I'm afraid you might dealing with a case of mistaken identity.

Consider Kellogg's Berry Krispies -- a fruity spin on traditional Rice Krispies.

The packaging shows the three Rice Krispies cartoon characters juggling a variety of berries.

A large strawberry, blueberry, and blackberry are also prominently featured on the front of the box.

A glance at the ingredient list unveils a mystery, though -- where is the fruit?

"Rice, sugar, high fructose corn syrup, salt, natural and artificial berry flavor, malt flavoring, red #40, ascorbic acid (Vitamin C), iron, niacinamide, blue #1, pyridoxine hydrochloride (vitamin B6), riboflavin, thiamin hydrochloride, vitamin A palmitate, folic acid, vitamin B12, vitamin D."

So, in reality, you have artifically colored rice puffs with berry flavor sprinkled on them.

No berries -- or parts of any -- are included in this product.

Not surprisingly, a cup of Berry Krispies provides 0 grams of fiber.

General Mills' Berry Berry Kix doesn't fare much better.

The letter "i" in Kix is dotted with three different berries, and the package boasts: "No Artificial Preservatives! No Artificial Flavors!"

Be still, my heart.

Let's take a look at the ingredient list:

"Whole grain corn, sugar, corn meal, whole grain oats, corn starch, modified corn starch, canola oil, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup" along with food coloring, natural flavors, and a handful of vitamins and minerals.

In total? A measly gram of fiber per serving.

Combined with the feeble gram of protein and gram and a half of fat, this is one breakfast that will barely satiate you (and start your day off with quite a large load of Omega-6 fatty acids!)

Welch's fruit snacks advertise their "100% of the Vitamin C Daily Value per Serving" status on the product's packaging in all capital, colorful letters.

A wavy green banner reads: "Excellent Source of Vitamins A & E" If that wasn't enough, they are also "made with REAL FRUIT."

Who needs a banana or apple when you have these fruit snacks, right? Not quite.

Per the ingredient list:

"Juice from concentrates (grape, peach, pear, and pineapple), corn syrup, sugar, modified corn starch, fruit puree (grape, apple, strawberry, and raspberry), gelatin, citric acid, lactic acid, natural and artificial flavors, coconut oil, carnauba wax, ascorbic acid (vitamin C), [beta carotene (vitamin A), palmitate (vitamin A)], alpha tocopherol acetate (vitamin E), red 40, blue 1, yellow 5 and sodium citrate."

So, essentially, sugar with added vitamins. The high levels of Vitamins A, C, and E are not the result of healthy ingredients, but fortification.

For all intents and purposes, you might as well be chasing your multivitamin with a tablespoon of sugar.

Fruit flavorings, colorings, and extracts are not substitutes for the real thing.

For the constant media hype I hear about the "difficulties of eating healthy,:" incorporating fruit into your day is actually quite easy.

Apples and bananas, for instance, are easily accessible, inexpensive, highly portable, and could not be further from the "acquired taste" category.

You do not need to consume expensive, exotic fruits from a Mongolian monk's Himalayan hut to be healthy. Just try to eat one piece of fruit, whichever one you want, every day.

1 comment:

kemchi said...

i work on consumer food goods and couldn't agree with you enough. if anything, my job is to confusing consumers into eating what they "think" is healthy...