Thursday, September 10, 2009

Healthy Froot Loops? Not.

When my sons were little and asked for cereals like Froot Loops, I used to say, "Honey, that's not real food. Real food doesn't come in those colors." I wasn't kidding. To get the rainbow of colors into this junk food, Kellogg has to add two artificial blue colorings, a red and a yellow.

Years of reporting on the harmful effects of artificial ingredients in food convinced me long ago that a healthy diet consists of food the way it comes from nature. If it takes lab scientists to create it, then I'm not interested in putting that so-called food in my body.

Now along comes a new food industry program meant to tap into Americans' increasing awareness that much of the food on supermarket shelves is just corn in different disguises, sweetened and salted to a fare-thee-well.

It's called the "Smart Choice Program," and its green check-mark label will soon be adorning Froot Loops and other foods that don't deserve that designation.

Message to consumers: ignore the label. Read the ingredients list.

The gall of Kellogg in using the label is to be expected. But supposedly respected nutritionists, like Eileen T. Kennedy, dean of Tufts University's school of nutrition science, gave their approval. The New York Times quoted her as saying that Froot Loops would be a better choice for a child's breakfast than a doughnut.

Wow. What an insult to every parent in America. Here are your choices, Mom & Dad. Serve those kids sugary fried food or sugary food made from corn, with fiber and a vitamin pill thrown in.

And, it's not only an insult to our health, it's an insult to our budgets at a time when everyone--except the bankers--are having to find ways to trim expenses.

If you take a look at the ingredients list you can see what a travesty this is. Sugar is listed as the first ingredient and actually accounts for 41% of the weight of the cereal. It amounts to 3 teaspoons of sugar, as much as in many cookies.

And the price for this combo of cheap corn, cheap fiber, and the equivalent of one vitamin pill? $6 for a 19-ounce box!

Here are some ideas of healthy breakfasts that will cost less or certainly no more. Some can be prepared the night before and grabbed right out of the fridge, others may take a few minutes to prepare and eat at home:
  • A hard-boiled egg and a banana
  • A peanut butter and jelly sandwich
  • Cinnamon toast: slices of whole wheat bread and butter with a sprinkle of cinnamon and sugar
  • A bowl of Quaker Quick Oatmeal (costs a shy more than $2 for an 18-ounce package) sprinkled with raisins. You can microwave it in the time it takes to find your keys.
  • A smoothie: milk and whatever fruit is on hand whipped in the blender.

Here's my bottom line: If Froot Loops were actually healthy, the name of this product wouldn't be a deliberate misspelling of "fruit." Had they spelled it right, the name itself would be a fraud. Just like the new "Smart Choice" label.

No comments: