Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Cereal Vs. Ice Cream

This past week I had the privilege of leading a nutrition supermarket tour. When my tour group came to the cereal aisle, many of my participants had a very eye-opening experience about all of the sugar in "healthy cereal" products. In talking about carbohydrates and sugar, one woman had a very interesting comment, "With that much sugar, I could have just had my bowl of ice cream for a snack. I thought I was being healthier by having cereal."

After the tour, I was curious to see how cereal, a so called wholesome breakfast, really stacked up to a bowl of ice cream. Here begins my investigation:

Raisin Bran (w/o Milk)(1 cup): 
-Calories: 190    -Total Fat: 1g       -Sodium: 210mg    -Total Carbs: 46g
-Fiber: 7g    -Sugars: 18g    -Protein: 5g  
-Additional Vitamins and Minerals

Raisin Bran (with skim milk)(1 cup): 
-Calories: 230    -Total Fat: 1g       -Sodium: 275mg    -Total Carbs: 52g
-Fiber: 7g    -Sugars: 24g    -Protein: 9g

Special K (with skim milk)(3/4 cup):
-Calories: 160    -Total Fat: 1g       -Sodium: 205mg    -Total Carbs: 33g
-Fiber: 3g    -Sugars: 16g    -Protein: 6g
Choc Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream (1/2 cup):
-Calories: 160    -Total Fat: 9g      -Sodium: 65mg       -Total Carbs: 20g
-Fiber: 0g    -Sugars: 14g    -Protein: 2g
-Vitamin A and Vitamin C

Chocolate Ice Cream (1/2 cup):
-Calories: 150    -Total Fat: 7g       -Sodium: 45mg    -Total Carbs: 19g
-Fiber: 1g    -Sugars: 14g    -Protein: 2g
-Vitamin A and Vitamin C

So, we have similar calorie ranges, especially with the ice cream and Special K cereal. The ice creams have a higher fat content and lower protein content; however, they have less sugar, calories, and sodium. The cereals have more sodium, carbohydrates and sugars; however, they also have fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals.

What does that leave us with? Well, the cereals are a good source of fiber and protein, at the expense of too much sugar and sodium intake. I'm not sure how many people really measure out their cereals in the morning anyway. Most of the time, cereal is just poured in the bowl and eaten. Unless you measure your cereal (kudos to you), you will be likely multiplying all of the nutritional information by 2.

In terms of which is a "healthier snack," I would go for what tastes better. In the end, they both have a high carb/sugar content, as opposed to healthier snacks (like veggies, nuts, seeds, or fresh fruit). I really suggest checking the sugar content of your favorite cereals. If you have never took notice of the nutrition label, you may be surprised at how much sugar you are consuming. While cereal does have extra vitamins, minerals, protein (mostly due to the milk added), and fiber, it is not a significant amount to make a difference if you are eating an overall healthy diet. Most cereals are "enriched" with vitamins and minerals anyway, so they aren't really a "natural" source to begin with. Depending on the cereal, and ice cream, you choose, you may even end up with more skewed results than I found.

Some final advice:
1. Always read the nutrition label! Look at the ingredient list too. Ingredients are listed by weight, in descending order.
2. If sugar is one of the first 4 ingredients, skip it!
3. Compare products. Check out all of the nutrients and see which is the best option.
4. Be mindful of portion sizes. Read the serving size and compare it to what you are normally eating.
5. If all else fails, have a little splurge and enjoy what you are eating!