Cereal Offenders


Why it’s the most misleading meal of the day

It’s a confusing world. We’re told that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but many of the breakfast cereals are hugely unhealthy, despite claims to the contrary. Once upon a time, cereal boxes proudly gave you a novelty gift – now they surreptitiously give you diabetes. And cereals are becoming increasingly crazy.

NESTLE LION CEREAL is a prime example of breakfast lunacy as over one third of the content is sugar (35g of sugar per 100g) which is frankly shocking. It boasts that it’s a good source of vitamins, calcium and iron, and while that may be true, it’s like washing down a multivitamin pill with a glass of cooking fat.

One of Nestle’s other cereals, GOLDEN NUGGETS, also has a huge sugar content (34g per 100g) which constitutes more than 30 sugar lumps per packet.

Nobody except unsupervised children and ironic hipster students would eat this for breakfast, but less obvious brands are equally bad for you. We were surprised to find out that GOLDEN GRAHAMS have actually been around since 1974 and were even more shocked to find how salt laden they are. With a salt content of 2.5 grams per 100g, they’re one of the saltiest cereals ever and as they celebrate their 35th year of contributing to high blood pressure and heart disease here’s a comparison to give you a ballpark idea of how salty they actually are:- sea water has 3.5 grams per 100g.

Watch out also for imitation cereals – they’re often better. While the official FRUIT & FIBRE has 8.5g of fibre, the cheaper WAITROSE OWN-BRAND version carries 11.7g of the rough stuff. It also has less fat and fewer calories than the ‘real’ version — that’s also more fibre than good old ALPEN, which only has 6.6g per 100g. Note that almost a quarter of Alpen (23g per 100g) is nothing but sugar.

But this one is the real head scratcher: SPECIAL K  has more calories than FROSTIES. Yes, the staple snack of dieting woman everywhere is more calorific than the sugar-coated looneyfuel of hyperactive kids. Per 100g there are 374 calories in Special K compared to 371 in Frosties. On top of that, there is more than double the amount of fat in Special K — 1.5g compared to 0.6g.

The marketing of Special K would lead you to believe that it’s the healthy choice and an aid to slimming. But it appears that slim, pretty women in tight jeans are less trustworthy than an orange talking tiger who keeps shouting that everything is great. This probably makes perfect sense if you celebrated newfound singledom after a bitter divorce by going on a wild one at Glastonbury Festival, but for the rest of us it seems wrong.

You’re best off sticking to fresh fruit. Failing that, make sure you read the small print on the side of the box rather than the health claims on the front.

For Men’s Fitness, May 2009

Click here for PDF version

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