Cold (Cereal) War

colorful cerealThe cereal aisle is a minefield and, last weekend, I blew my leg off with the help of a leprechaun. That’s a little graphic for Lucky Charms; but, you get the idea.

I wasn’t really eating Lucky Charms – I had Kashi’s Heart to Heart Oat Flakes & Blueberry Clusters. The whole box. Yes, I ate the whole box in two days. It’s only 1400 calories for that whole box, true; but, it’s hardly a balanced diet now, is it?

Mine number one for cold cereal is the convenience of it. When I’m tired or just don’t feel like cooking, it’s so simple to just reach on top of the refrigerator, grab the box, pour a bowl of it, top with almond milk and dig in. It’s so much easier to pour that bowl than it is to actually cook a meal, right? However, as I’ve learned in all of my research, our healthiest diets come from enjoying a wide variety of foods that give us a wide variety of vitamins and minerals. Cereal just doesn’t do that. And, did you notice how there was no mention of measuring an actual serving there?  That’s mine number two.

One serving of the Kashi cereal has 200 calories. Not bad, right? Well, a serving is one cup. One. Cup. Measure that out. It’s not much, is it? Even using the little rice bowl from my sushi set, it doesn’t come close to looking like a very filling breakfast, much less feeling like one. And many cereals with purportedly low calories per serving have an even smaller serving size. Be sure to check the ingredients on those low calorie options, too. Many of them are loaded with mine number three.

That, of course, is sugar. They may call it sugar, cane syrup, corn syrup, sucrose, fructose, dextrose, or many other things; but, at the end of the day, it’s sugar. Consuming refined sugar in foods sets me (maybe not you, but certainly me) up for cravings about 30 minutes after I’ve eaten, regardless of how filling the package says the cereal is. And that’s mine number four.

It’s the marketing. Gluten free. Whole grains. News flash: neither claim translates to “good for you.” Gluten free is necessary if you have gluten sensitivity or celiac disease; however, if you don’t, it’s meaningless. It’s the new buzz phrase. And remember, taffy, Rice Crispie treats, Tootsie rolls, and hot fudge are all also gluten free. As for cereals made with whole grains, sure, there are all kinds of healthful options – options like Cheerios or Special K. Or, there are other options like Lucky Charms, made with whole grains (and marshmallows), Cinnamon Toast Crunch (that actually leaves sugar in the bowl) and let’s not forget Fruit Loops (there’s just so much to say there that I can’t even start).

Now, if you’re one of those people who can actually keep a box of cereal until it goes stale, then you’re the Eisenhower of breakfast cereal. I tip my hat to you on account of I’m more along the lines of Hoover – the vacuum, not the president. If a box of cereal lasts three days in my house it’s because I was out of town for two of them. But, if you don’t require adult supervision, then cold cereal is a great, occasional breakfast option. If you’re like me, it’s probably best to leave the box on aisle two.

After all, what’s the point in engaging in cold cereal war when you know you’ve already lost?



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