Many people take pride in finding the best shopping deals. That's especially true of those who have refined the art of coupon shopping at the grocery store. You might get 4 boxes of cereal for the price of 2 but what are you really getting?
- Fancy (expensive) artwork on the cereal box.
- Lots of throw away packaging used for shipping and marketing the cereal on the grocery shelves.
- Unhealthy ingredients like hydrogenated oils, dyes or artificial colors and chemical preservatives.
- Some healthy ingredients but you've got to read carefully to get “whole wheat” or “wheat bran,” and not just “wheat”.
Americans are so used to being surrounded by marketing messages, we don't realize we're being manipulated to buy what we don't need, what's not good for us and more. We can learn a lot from our European counterparts so …
Product Packaging and Marketing
We're familiar with the aisle at the grocery store jammed pack with 100s (list at Wikipedia) of choices in cereals. Maybe you like Cheerios but how many different kinds of cereal do we need? There's Apple Cinnamon, Banana Nut, Berry Burst (Strawberry & Triple Berry), Cinnamon Burst, Chocolate, Frosted, Fruity, Honey Nut, Multi-Grain, Oat Cluster, Yogurt Burst (Strawberry & Vanilla) and names to capture special events like Team USA in 1996 and Millenios in 2000. Is your head spinning?
You get excited when you find coupons for your kids favorite cereal but who picked the cereal? Children are influenced by TV ads and box designs — they don't know or care about the nutritional content of cereal. You need to give them healthy choices by researching the nutritional value of cereal and narrowing their choices, to say 3 cereals that meet your nutrition criteria.
Cereal Volume Versus Weight
You're familiar with optical illusions, where your eyes see one thing but your brain is telling you something else. Hopefully you've learned the size of the box (any food packaging) doesn't mean you're getting more cereal as heavier cereals using less space are generally more nutritious. In 12 Tips on Choosing and Preparing Healthy Cereals for Your Family, they suggest an easy, in-store comparison of weight per serving (grams) to identify which cereal offers the most nutritional value, the table belows shows granola weighing 51 grams versus 29 grams for Cheerios.
You can also compare the nutrients provided by weight, i.e. pound, and compare the nutritional value and cost of a pound of cereal versus a pound of cheese. A portion of Jarlsburg cheese weighs the same as Cheerios but offers more than twice the protein. This could be a real eye opener as to American eating habits versus European eating habits where a piece of bread with cheese is a common breakfast. With more than 30% of Americans obese, maybe it's time for Americans to re-evaluate and change their eating habits?
|Weight in grams (g)||Cheerios||Cheese|
|Cost per serving||$0.27||$0.36||0.36||$0.22|
|Serving size||1 cup||1 oz||1/2 cup||1/2 cup|
|Weigh per serving (grams)||28 g||28g||51g||40g|
|Dietary fiber (grams)||3g||0g||5g||5g|
Make Your Own Cereal
Do your research and you might discover that making your own cereal isn't more expensive for the nutrition you get. It doesn't have to be difficult either once you get into the routine. My favorite cereal is old fashioned oatmeal sprinkled with dried cranberries and walnuts. It's easy to change toppings to raisins, almonds and it's a lot healthier.