Millions of well-intentioned American parents, unbeknownst to them, are over-fortifying their kids with too many nutrients. That’s according to a report published earlier this year by the Environmental Working Group (EWG).
EWG, an American-based health and research organization, analyzed the nutrition facts labels for 1,550 breakfast cereals and found that 114 cereals were fortified by the manufacturer with 30 percent or more of the adult Daily Value of vitamin A, zinc, and/or niacin. They also looked at 1,000 snack bars and found that 27 common brands were fortified with 50 percent or more of the Daily Value of at least one of those nutrients.
Among the most fortified cereals were:
- General Mills’ Total line
- Wheaties Fuel
- Kellogg’s Product 19
- Smart Start
- All-Bran Complete
- Cocoa Krispies
The most fortified snack bars included
Food Awards: Best & Worst Breakfast Cereals
When foods are fortified, vitamins and minerals that aren’t originally in a food are added by the manufacturer. Classic examples include adding vitamin D to milk, iron to flour, fiber to cereal, and iodine to salt. Since 1998, folic acid has been added to breads, cereals, and other products that use enriched flour in an effort to reduce Spina Bifida and other serious birth defects. The idea of fortification was developed almost 100 years ago to treat common nutrition-deficiency diseases.
But it is possible to consume too many fortified foods, especially by children, because the Daily Values are set for the needs of adults not kids. Furthermore, the Daily Value standards were set in 1968 and so some are higher than levels currently deemed to be safe. (more…)
Ever feel like your cereal box is staring at you? If you do, you’re not alone. New research from Cornell University Food and Brand Lab shows the somewhat creepy, blank stares of popular cereal mascots are designed to specifically to stare you down as you decide which brand to buy. They’re also probably part of the reason kids seem to be drawn to sugary, less healthful brands.
The study also found what most of us already know. In stores, cereals targeted at children tend to be on lower, easy-to-reach shelves. They’re also at an optimal height to be in kids’ lines of sight. Healthier “adult” cereals tend to be placed higher up and out of kids’ easy reach.
By Team Best Life
We know how tough it can be to find the time for a healthy breakfast when you’re trying to get out the door in the morning. But a recent survey from the NPD Group, a market research company, suggests that people have found a solution: More and more Americans are opting for grab-and-go breakfasts.
That’s a smart strategy since the benefits of breakfast have been well proven—people who start their day with a healthy meal are generally slimmer and healthier than those who skip it. Not only can a morning meal help keep your appetite in check, but it can also give you a boost of energy.
Check out the grab-and-go breakfast ideas below, all of which can help you power through your day:
- Muffins. Make a batch of over the weekend, and enjoy them all week long. (Handy tip: You can freeze them and microwave them for just a few seconds to soften them up right before eating.) Pair with a skim latte and fruit for a balanced breakfast. We love these Pumpkin Spice Muffins. Don’t have time for homemade? It’s fine to go for store-bought—just look for one with 160 to 200 calories and at least 5 g fiber. (more…)
By Janis Jibrin, M.S., R.D., Best Life lead nutritionist
I’ll admit it—I’ve given unsolicited advice to total strangers in the cereal aisle, but only when they look truly bewildered. It’s my nutritionist’s instinct, what can I say? Believe it or not, choosing a healthy cereal is not as complicated as you might think, especially when you follow a few simple steps.
Start with the ingredient list. Check to make sure all grains are whole. Examples of whole grains: barley, brown rice, oats, quinoa, triticale, whole rye, whole wheat, and anything else with “whole” in front of it. For more on what is and isn’t a whole grain, click here. I’d avoid sucralose (Splenda), acesulfame K, aspartame (Nutrasweet), and any other artificial sweetener—you don’t need these in a cereal. (more…)
By Bob Greene for TheBestLife.com
I’m a big fan of breakfast—in fact, starting off each day with a healthy, balanced breakfast is one of the key guidelines on my Best Life plan. A morning meal jump-starts your metabolism, delivers some much-needed energy after a night’s rest and can help with weight loss.
Don’t think you have the time? Check out these five dishes, which you can throw together in five minutes or less.
Be picky about what you pour into your bowl. Our guidelines: Opt for a cereal that has at least 4 grams of fiber, no more than 5 grams of sugar, and no more than 120 milligrams sodium per 100 calories. (Click here for a list of healthy cereal choices.) Top it off with fat-free or one-percent milk or calcium-enriched soy milk. To add more nutrients and flavor, top with some fresh fruit or a tablespoon or two of nuts. Or try this shortcut: Mix a few healthy cereals together, put them in a re-sealable plastic bag, and go. (more…)
Dr. William Vitale developed Medifast in the 1980s. Since then, many other physicians have recommended the program to more than one million customers. As reported by RedOrbit News, Medifast recently introduced new types of cereal, cheese puffs, and shakes to the market. The new meal options are designed for weight loss and portion control, similar to the other meals Medifast currently offers.
Mixed Berry and Cinnamon Brown Sugar Cereal Crunch are two new breakfast items. The Mixed Berry Cereal Crunch contains 100 calories per serving with 0 grams of trans fat, 3 grams of sugar, 4 grams of fiber, and 150 mg of sodium.
Cinnamon Brown Sugar Cereal Crunch contains 100 calories per serving with 0 grams of trans fat, 3 grams of sugar, 4 grams of fiber, and 140 mg of sodium. When compared, the Mixed Berry and Cinnamon Brown Sugar Crunch contain about the same amount of vitamins and minerals, but the Cinnamon Brown Sugar flavor has slightly less sodium.
Medifast has also introduced new cheese puffs, which include Parmesan and Chili Nacho Cheese flavors. The cheese puffs are a great way to indulge in cheesy goodness without tipping the scale on calories.
Medifast’s Chili Nacho Cheese Puffs contain 110 calories per serving with 0 grams of trans fat, 1 gram of sugar, 4 grams of fiber, and 360 mg of sodium. They also contain 20 percent of the daily requirement of vitamins A and C. (more…)
By Janis Jibrin, M.S., R.D. for TheBestLife.com
I love breakfast foods, so I’ve always wondered why anyone would deliberately skip this meal. Cereal, oatmeal, waffles, eggs, latte—what’s not to like? And if you opt for healthy versions of these foods, breakfast could be your most nutritious meal of the day. Here’s how to make the most of your morning meal.
Check the ingredient list to make sure that all the grains in the cereal are whole. Then check the label to make sure that you’re getting no more than 5 grams of sugar and at least 4 grams of fiber per 100 calories. If your cereal is very low sugar, such as Food for Life’s Ezekiel cereals or Uncle Sam’s, it’s fine to sprinkle on a few tablespoons of granola (which might exceed the “5 g sugar per 100 calories” rule in larger amounts). Here’s what to put in your bowl: (more…)
By Janis Jibrin, M.S., R.D., Best Life lead nutritionist
Wondering why the scale is stuck even though you’re eating healthfully? It may be that you’re being duped by diet deceivers—foods that may seem (or even be) nutritious but actually pack a lot of fat and calories. Beware of these five seemingly slimming bites.
It seems low calorie, with just 50 to 80 calories per two-tablespoon serving, but hummus is so delicious that it’s easy to scoop up a 3/4 cup. For an appetizer, stick to about 3 tablespoons with half a small whole-wheat pita. Or make a hummus sandwich your main course, using about 1/3 cup hummus in a medium whole-wheat pita stuffed with tomatoes and lettuce.
Most smoothies, including those made with frozen yogurt, fruit juice and fresh fruit, can be more like large desserts than a healthy boost. You can easily slurp down 800 calories depending on what you toss in your blender. Take a cue from the way we treat smoothies at Best Life; they serve as either a complete, balanced breakfast (like this Berry Smoothie) or as a 120- to 175-calorie snack (made with 1 cup of soy milk and a banana, for example). (more…)
Kellogg’s Honey Smacks cereal is over 50 percent sugar by weight, putting them at the top of Environmental Working Group’s list of the ten worst cereals. The organization, dedicated to protecting children’s health, analyzed 84 popular brands, finding that only one in four brands meet appropriate nutrition guidelines for children.
The Interagency Working Group on Food Marketed to Children was formed by Congress in response to rising levels of childhood obesity. The group is exploring the possibility of setting advertising standards for foods with high levels of sugar, salt and fat. However, lobbyists are fighting back on behalf of cereal manufacturers, who spend millions on marketing sugary breakfast foods to parents and kids alike. Currently, the industry has set a voluntary standard for the sugar content of cereal by weight at 38 percent, while the USDA recommends a limit of 26 percent.
After Honey Smacks, sugar also accounted for more than half of Post Golden Crisp’s weight, but were closely followed by three Quaker Oats products. “The cereals on the list are relatively higher in sugar because the sugar is reported as a percentage of the cereals’ weight,” commented Registered Dietitian Mary Hartley. “Since these cereals are light and airy, there have relatively more sugar by weight.” However, when kids eat sugary cereal, they’re missing out on more important nutrients. “The main problem with sugar for healthy people is that it ‘displaces calories’ from foods that contain nutrients – vitamins, minerals, fibers, compounds with antioxidant activity, etc. – replacing those calories with a food that contains only energy from carbohydrate,” said Hartley.
“I was stunned to discover just how much sugar comes in a box of children’s cereal,” said Environmental Working Group’s Senior Vice President of Research Jane Houlihan. “The bottom line: most parents would never serve dessert for breakfast, but many children’s cereals have just as much sugar, or more.”
A group of major food companies, including General Mills, ConAgra Foods and Kellogg, have announced that they will be voluntarily setting new advertising standards in order to cut back on marketing unhealthy foods to children. This comes after rejecting similar guidelines proposed by the federal government.
Under these new self-imposed standards, the food companies can still market their products to children, but only if they meet specific nutritional criteria. If they still want to market to children, some foods may have to make their ingredients more healthful.
“Now foods from different companies, such as cereals or canned pastas, will meet the same nutrition criteria, rather than similar but slightly different company-specific criteria,” said Elaine Kolish of the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative, a group formed by the food industry. (more…)