During a recent visit, when discussing the importance of protein (protein power!) at breakfast, one of my clients informed me that Cheerios® now have an "added protein" version. Eh? Upon further investigation I found that General Mills® has in fact add a new line of their Cheerios® brand called Cheerios® Protein, and along with it, they've stirred up quite the controversy.
I'm never one to recommend "fortified" foods in replacement of the real nutrients from whole foods, so upon first look at the new Cheerios® box I already wasn't impressed - where's the almond slices or walnut clusters? Where is this protein coming from? Nope, no real protein here. Just "oats & honey" which I can't imagine will boost the protein content of this cereal.
Then we turn to the ever-telling Nutrition Facts Label. There are 4 major factors we are looking at here:
- Serving size
- Total Carbohydrates, including Sugar
The original Cheerios®, as touted, are 100% Whole Grain and follow the standard guidelines for a serving of a Whole Grain: a 28 gram equivalent (looking at the serving size), approximately 90-100 calories, 15-20 grams of carbohydrate with only 1 gram of sugar, and 2-3 grams of protein. If you look in the ingredients list, you see recognizable words: oats, corn, a little sugar and some vitamins. Sounds good to me!
Then we compare the "new and improved" Cheerios® with PROTEIN!
First, the serving size is slightly bigger... 1 and 1/4 cups compared to the 1 cup serving of regular Cheerios®. Suspicious, but not terrible. But then we look to the dry weight - yikes! It's nearly double that of the regular Cheerios®: 55 grams of Cheerios® Protein compared to 28 grams of the original and and extra 100 calories to prove it. A serving of Cheerios® Protein, without milk, is 210 calories while a serving of regular Cheerios is 100 calories.
So let's even the playing field to make sure we're not trying to compare apples and oranges here. In order to do this, we must reduce the portion size of Cheerios® Protein by half, to equalize the dry weight and calories of our original Cheerios®.
20 grams carbohydrate
*9 grams sugar*
3.5 grams protein
20 grams carbohydrate
*1 gram sugar*
3 grams protein
Do you see what I see? With the Cheerios® Protein, you actually get a smaller bowl of cereal, with the SAME AMOUNT OF PROTEIN and with and an extra 8 grams or 2 teaspoons of sugar! Blasphemy!
This ridiculousness is only confirmed when we compare our Ingredients Lists. Remember that regular old "Sugar" listed in our original Cheerios®? In our Cheerios® Protein we have now added:
- Brown Sugar
- Corn Syrup
- Corn Syrup Solids
The moral of this story? Get your nutrients from, real, whole foods. If you would like to boost your protein intake at breakfast, add one of these whole food sources of protein:
- 1 hard boiled egg (6 g protein)
- 1 slice low-fat cheese (6 g protein)
- 1 cup 1% milk (6 g protein)
- 1 container low-fat yogurt (6 g protein) or Greek yogurt (12 g protein)
- 1/2 cup cottage cheese (14 g protein)
- 2 oz smoked salmon (10 g protein)
- 1 tablespoon peanut butter (4 g protein)
- 2 lean turkey breakfast sausage (12 g protein)