Help me understand food nutritional labels

RichyRichy Registered User regular
So, with my kid growing up and increasingly enjoying cereals for breakfast, I've started paying attention to nutritional labels to make sure I pick the healthiest option. But when I started comparing cereals, what I found made no sense to me. For example:
  • Lucky Charms, which is sugary as hell and contains marshmallows, is listed as 110 calories and 9g of sugar.
  • Froot Loops, which are basically rings of sugar, is listed as 110 calories and 10g of sugar.
  • Raisan Bran, which are bran with dry raisins, is listed as 135 calories and 10.5g of sugar.
  • Harvest Crunch, which is oats and nuts, is listed as 300 calories and 18g of sugar.
(all values are for 3/4 cup cereal with no milk)

So, what am I missing here? Because from these values it looks like the sugary kids cereals are healthier than the non-sugary grown-up cereals. That can't be right... right?

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Posts

  • OrogogusOrogogus San DiegoRegistered User regular
    Harvest Crunch is a granola cereal, which are usually very dense compared to Lucky Charms or Froot Loops. Raisins kind of are, too. You're getting more mass per volume, probably around twice as much.

    dispatch.oEncRichyTychoCelchuuuElvenshae
  • dispatch.odispatch.o Registered User regular
    edited September 7
    Volumes are misleading ridiculous measurements. Go by weight and it will make more sense.

    3/4 cup of a puff rice cereal would weigh more than 1/4 cup of granola.

    dispatch.o on
    EncRichytynicSkeithMojo_JojoHefflingKetarTychoCelchuuuwebguy20NightDragon
  • EncEnc A Fool with Compassion The Land of Flowers (and Dragons)Registered User regular
    edited September 2
    Well, yes and no. "Adult" cereals, generally speaking, aren't actually all that healthy. Even cheerios's whole thing isn't that eating puffed oatflour is good for you, just that compared to a previous diet of fried eggs and bacon or sugar pastries you'll probably have a much better time with your heart. As others have said, density is a major part of the comparison between how much sugar is in a cup or whatever.

    But all cereal on the cereal isle is essentially cookies and should be thought as such. Your adult versus kid cookies are comparing frosted oatmeal cookies with frosted sugar cookies. That's the real difference.

    Does that mean don't let your kids have Lucky Charms? Eh. Maybe sometimes! But cooking an a meal like you would dinner with balanced portions would be the actual healthy way to start the day. Not everyone has the luxury of doing that, though.

    Enc on
    dispatch.obowenRichyGdiguyTychoCelchuuu
  • RichyRichy Registered User regular
    Ah, that makes sense. It's true that cereals are very variable in shape and density, so a constant volume would contain a very different quantity of cereal. When normalized by mass the data makes a lot more sense:
    • Lucky Charms, 3.9 calories and 0.32g of sugar per gram of cereal
    • Froot Loops, 4.1 calories and 0.37g of sugar per gram of cereal
    • Raisan Bran, 3.3 calories and 0.25g of sugar per gram of cereal
    • Harvest Crunch, 4.4 calories and 0.27g of sugar per gram of cereal

    Thanks all!

    sig.gif
  • 38thDoe38thDoe lets never be stupid again wait lets always be stupid foreverRegistered User regular
    Enc wrote: »
    Well, yes and no. "Adult" cereals, generally speaking, aren't actually all that healthy. Even cheerios's whole thing isn't that eating puffed oatflour is good for you, just that compared to a previous diet of fried eggs and bacon or sugar pastries you'll probably have a much better time with your heart. As others have said, density is a major part of the comparison between how much sugar is in a cup or whatever.

    But all cereal on the cereal isle is essentially cookies and should be thought as such. Your adult versus kid cookies are comparing frosted oatmeal cookies with frosted sugar cookies. That's the real difference.

    Does that mean don't let your kids have Lucky Charms? Eh. Maybe sometimes! But cooking an a meal like you would dinner with balanced portions would be the actual healthy way to start the day. Not everyone has the luxury of doing that, though.

    Wait if cereal and eggs and bacon are bad what is the recommended choice? I'm worried you aren't going to say pancakes.

    Heir
  • EncEnc A Fool with Compassion The Land of Flowers (and Dragons)Registered User regular
    edited September 2
    38thDoe wrote: »
    Enc wrote: »
    Well, yes and no. "Adult" cereals, generally speaking, aren't actually all that healthy. Even cheerios's whole thing isn't that eating puffed oatflour is good for you, just that compared to a previous diet of fried eggs and bacon or sugar pastries you'll probably have a much better time with your heart. As others have said, density is a major part of the comparison between how much sugar is in a cup or whatever.

    But all cereal on the cereal isle is essentially cookies and should be thought as such. Your adult versus kid cookies are comparing frosted oatmeal cookies with frosted sugar cookies. That's the real difference.

    Does that mean don't let your kids have Lucky Charms? Eh. Maybe sometimes! But cooking an a meal like you would dinner with balanced portions would be the actual healthy way to start the day. Not everyone has the luxury of doing that, though.

    Wait if cereal and eggs and bacon are bad what is the recommended choice? I'm worried you aren't going to say pancakes.

    A quick breakfast I do a lot is hummus on bell pepper, or I make a bunch of polenta or couscous with veggies on sunday and pack them for the next few days to microwave once its meal time. Neither are really kid friendly depending on how fussy an eater your kids are. But for grown adult humans with agency I really would recommend literally making a meal like you would a dinner, just half portion. A bit of meat, a bunch of veggies, some fresh grains.

    Eggs, depending on how you prepare them, are a great breakfast for (most) people! Drop the butter and just one as soft or hardboiled and there isn't much better than them as far as superfoods (again, for most people. If you are in a colesterol situation things are different obviously). I do enjoy a softboiled egg over rice as hearty winter breakfast every now and then.

    That said, I do bagels and hummus or creamcheese regularly as well. And if your kids are getting balanced meals at lunch and dinner and are active, a sugary cereal won't kill them. Its just when everything in your diet is terrible that the problems compound.

    Enc on
    38thDoe
  • CelestialBadgerCelestialBadger Registered User regular
    If you like cereal try oats. Rolled oats cook in 5 minutes and even without sugar taste better than the non-sugared breakfast cereals. With a little sugar even better.

    dispatch.oHeir
  • mtsmts Dr. Robot King Registered User regular
    because supposedly healthy cereals are terrible for you and only seem healthy

    camo_sig.png
    Six
  • asurasur Registered User regular
    edited September 3
    I wouldn't normalize by weight, or any other metric, unless you consume by that metric. A lot of food is consumed by volume and cereal definitely falls into this where you'll fill the bowl regardless of what the cereal is.

    You can find cereals with less sugar. Kashi is ok in general and had a few flavors that have very low sugar though it's definitely noticeable and your kid might hate them. I think it was mentioned above, but granola is not great. It's both calorically dense and high sugar which will lead to most people overeating it.

    asur on
    HappylilElf
  • 38thDoe38thDoe lets never be stupid again wait lets always be stupid foreverRegistered User regular
    We typically have
    Enc wrote: »
    38thDoe wrote: »
    Enc wrote: »
    Well, yes and no. "Adult" cereals, generally speaking, aren't actually all that healthy. Even cheerios's whole thing isn't that eating puffed oatflour is good for you, just that compared to a previous diet of fried eggs and bacon or sugar pastries you'll probably have a much better time with your heart. As others have said, density is a major part of the comparison between how much sugar is in a cup or whatever.

    But all cereal on the cereal isle is essentially cookies and should be thought as such. Your adult versus kid cookies are comparing frosted oatmeal cookies with frosted sugar cookies. That's the real difference.

    Does that mean don't let your kids have Lucky Charms? Eh. Maybe sometimes! But cooking an a meal like you would dinner with balanced portions would be the actual healthy way to start the day. Not everyone has the luxury of doing that, though.

    Wait if cereal and eggs and bacon are bad what is the recommended choice? I'm worried you aren't going to say pancakes.

    A quick breakfast I do a lot is hummus on bell pepper, or I make a bunch of polenta or couscous with veggies on sunday and pack them for the next few days to microwave once its meal time. Neither are really kid friendly depending on how fussy an eater your kids are. But for grown adult humans with agency I really would recommend literally making a meal like you would a dinner, just half portion. A bit of meat, a bunch of veggies, some fresh grains.

    Eggs, depending on how you prepare them, are a great breakfast for (most) people! Drop the butter and just one as soft or hardboiled and there isn't much better than them as far as superfoods (again, for most people. If you are in a colesterol situation things are different obviously). I do enjoy a softboiled egg over rice as hearty winter breakfast every now and then.

    That said, I do bagels and hummus or creamcheese regularly as well. And if your kids are getting balanced meals at lunch and dinner and are active, a sugary cereal won't kill them. Its just when everything in your diet is terrible that the problems compound.

    Apparently poached is the second healthiest way to eat them. Just need to be less lazy I guess.

  • MugsleyMugsley Registered User regular
    What helped me with sweets in general was understanding that one teaspoon of sugar is only 4g. Which seems fine for cereal, but is eye opening when you look at drinks.

    "Lemon Iced Tea" often has almost as much sugar as a can of Coke. 30g of sugar for a given non-large (sub-1 qt) container is not uncommon

  • dispatch.odispatch.o Registered User regular
    edited September 4
    An egg cooked in butter isn't that bad. Butter and eggs in general are victims of the anti-fat pro-sugar/salt marketing of the 80s/90s.

    For the calorie/protein density, it's hard to beat an egg. Cooking an egg in a good skillet uses a few grams of cooking fat, which is all about the same amount of "unhealthy". Olive oil, canola oil, avacado oil, butter - pick one you like and use a couple of grams of it. Maybe don't float your egg in it or pour it on the egg when you're done (unless you like deliciousness). Most articles I read say use olive oil if you're really aiming for most healthy, but it really sucks to cook with something that smokes at super low temperature.

    The biggest problem I have with cereal and bread products isn't that it's got a little sugar for taste, it's that they add sugars as preservatives and to appeal to children in competition with things like donuts and candy.

    If you make oatmeal and add a little butter and some vanilla or small amount of granulated sugar or honey, you're at the very least making something way tastier than cereal and probably healthier.

    Edit: I'm definitely not a healthy cooking type person or a nutritionist, but when you know the ingredients of something because you measured them yourself it will help. Compared to the tricky measuring and gimmick numbers of prepackaged foods aimed at kids, cigarettes look more ethically marketed.

    dispatch.o on
    SmrtnikEl Muchobowen
  • chr1sh4ll3ttb3chr1sh4ll3ttb3 A dagger in the dark is worth a thousand swords in the morningRegistered User regular
    For a healthy breakfast cereal this is what you want, mate: https://www.treatsfromoz.com/products/sanitarium-weet-bix-breakfast-cereal-575g

    Two of them in a bowl with some full cream milk and some chopped fruit on top. Your kids will grow up tough as nails. If you want the broad ocker accent to go with, be sure to also serve them a glass of Milo with their Weetbix.

    Jandaru
  • ShivahnShivahn Unaware of her barrel shifter privilege Western coastal temptressRegistered User regular
    Mugsley wrote: »
    What helped me with sweets in general was understanding that one teaspoon of sugar is only 4g. Which seems fine for cereal, but is eye opening when you look at drinks.

    "Lemon Iced Tea" often has almost as much sugar as a can of Coke. 30g of sugar for a given non-large (sub-1 qt) container is not uncommon

    It's actually (assuming granulated sugar) less than that, more like 3.5g. Sugar's super soluble and we really don't realize how much of it ends up in things. I only really realized how much was in stuff when I

    1) had to dissolve it in a laboratory, and
    2) had to weigh various compounds out in a lab

    Take a guess at about how much sugar, by volume, is in a can of coke.
    Looking it up online, a standard 12-oz can of coke has 39 grams of sugar. Which is about a quarter cup. Imagine if that were dry! Instead of drinking two cokes with lunch, you could just eat a half cup of sugar and get the same health effects.

    Mugsley
  • FiendishrabbitFiendishrabbit Registered User regular
    There is a reason why EU regulations state that all nutritional facts should state nutritional value per 100g. Not nutritional value per serving or nutritional value per cup or other such measurements that can be manipulated.
    For the calorie/protein density, it's hard to beat an egg. Cooking an egg in a good skillet uses a few grams of cooking fat, which is all about the same amount of "unhealthy". Olive oil, canola oil, avacado oil, butter - pick one you like and use a couple of grams of it. Maybe don't float your egg in it or pour it on the egg when you're done (unless you like deliciousness). Most articles I read say use olive oil if you're really aiming for most healthy, but it really sucks to cook with something that smokes at super low temperature.

    Or you could use a non-stick pan? A decent non-stick pan like a Tefal Titanium is quite alright for anything but large pieces of meat (where you need the heat capacitance of a cast iron skillet or the temperature will drop too much when you put the meat in).
    For eggs it's perfectly fine.

    As for oils. Be aware that olive oil and avocado oil are the oils most frequently cheated with by unethical food companies and suppliers, leading to a large percentage of these oils being either rancid or diluted with lower quality oils. So if you want olive oil/avocado oil, you want one that's been certified by a reputable organization.
    Canola oil tends to be a more certain alternative, and still quite healthy as oils go.

    "The western world sips from a poisonous cocktail: Polarisation, populism, protectionism and post-truth"
    -Antje Jackelén, Archbishop of the Church of Sweden
  • ArchArch Neat-o, mosquito! Registered User regular
    edited September 6
    Richy wrote: »
    So, with my kid growing up and increasingly enjoying cereals for breakfast, I've started paying attention to nutritional labels to make sure I pick the healthiest option. But when I started comparing cereals, what I found made no sense to me. For example:
    • Lucky Charms, which is sugary as hell and contains marshmallows, is listed as 110 calories and 9g of sugar.
    • Froot Loops, which are basically rings of sugar, is listed as 110 calories and 10g of sugar.
    • Raisan Bran, which are bran with dry raisins, is listed as 135 calories and 10.5g of sugar.
    • Harvest Crunch, which is oats and nuts, is listed as 300 calories and 18g of sugar.
    (all values are for 3/4 cup cereal with no milk)

    So, what am I missing here? Because from these values it looks like the sugary kids cereals are healthier than the non-sugary grown-up cereals. That can't be right... right?

    In addition to the volume and density differences between 3/4 of a cup of Raisin Bran vs Froot Loops already mentioned....

    One of the other misleading things here on the labels is the type of sugar. Oats and Raisin Bran have more complex carbohydrates from, well, the bran and oats, which are more calorically dense than simple sugars. In addition, there's different kinds of sugars in the raisins versus the marshmallow, and the added fiber in the raisins.

    That being said, the more whole-grain and oat-based cereals you consume, the better you'll be. I disagree a bit that it's completely unhealthy to eat breakfast cereals. High-fiber cereals with little to no added sugar are generally pretty good for you overall. They provide quick energy early on thanks to the raisins (using Raisin bran as an example), and then long-term energy release from the more complicated starches in the bran flakes. In addition the added fiber keeps you from absorbing everything, leading to lower sugar absorption overall compared to something like Lucky Charms.

    Oat-based cereals also contain a lot of beta-glucan (oatmeal itself is better, but eh) that helps manage cholesterol levels as well.

    So, all this to say, if you're trying to healthily feed your kid cereal, go for oat- or bran-based cereals with dried fruit.

    Of course, these aren't the most appealing cereals for children, so I can't help you there if they just scream for Froot Loops.

    Arch on
  • BurtletoyBurtletoy Registered User regular
    edited September 7
    I liked frosted mini wheats when I was a kid. I feel like that ones a good mix of healthy and also added sugar to make the kids happy.

    Funny story, when I was ~10 years old, our family doctor prescribed that I eat sugary cereals in the morning to try and gain weight, so my parents started buying fruit loops and shit. I think that lasted less than a year before I went back to raisin bran on my own choice, cause it tasted better.

    Burtletoy on
    Elvenshae
  • MegaMan001MegaMan001 CRNA Rochester, MNRegistered User regular
    If your aiming for healthy try to embrace oatmeal / rolled oats / steel cut oats or whatever the hell they are labeled with a tablespoon of good real peanut butter mixed in.

    I am in the business of saving lives.
    Darkewolfe
  • CelestialBadgerCelestialBadger Registered User regular
    Rolled oats can be combined with the packs of chopped nuts and dried fruits they sell for baking for a very nice, filling breakfast (just add cold milk.)

  • FeralFeral MEMETICHARIZARD interior crocodile alligator ⇔ ǝɹʇɐǝɥʇ ǝᴉʌoɯ ʇǝloɹʌǝɥɔ ɐ ǝʌᴉɹp ᴉRegistered User regular
    Out of curiosity, @Richy does much of your food come from the US?

    Because I don't know anything about Canadian food labeling requirements, but the US food labeling requirements have a wide margin of error. It's kind of... uh... a thing.

    every person who doesn't like an acquired taste always seems to think everyone who likes it is faking it. it should be an official fallacy.
    the "no true scotch man" fallacy.
  • RichyRichy Registered User regular
    Feral wrote: »
    Out of curiosity, @Richy does much of your food come from the US?

    Because I don't know anything about Canadian food labeling requirements, but the US food labeling requirements have a wide margin of error. It's kind of... uh... a thing.

    Yeah we're on different food distribution networks. We have to, since our labeling has to be in metric and bilingual.

    I don't know anything about errors in the food labels, but a quick google says the printed values have to be within 20% of reality, and is checked by Health Canada. How is it in the USA?

    sig.gif
    Feral
  • bwaniebwanie Posting into the void Registered User regular
    edited September 9
    There is a reason why EU regulations state that all nutritional facts should state nutritional value per 100g. Not nutritional value per serving or nutritional value per cup or other such measurements that can be manipulated.

    Seriously? I can accept your goddamn cups and spoons when you're writing down granny's applepie recipy, but c'mon now.

    bwanie on
    Yh6tI4T.jpg
  • FeralFeral MEMETICHARIZARD interior crocodile alligator ⇔ ǝɹʇɐǝɥʇ ǝᴉʌoɯ ʇǝloɹʌǝɥɔ ɐ ǝʌᴉɹp ᴉRegistered User regular
    edited September 9
    Richy wrote: »
    Feral wrote: »
    Out of curiosity, Richy does much of your food come from the US?

    Because I don't know anything about Canadian food labeling requirements, but the US food labeling requirements have a wide margin of error. It's kind of... uh... a thing.

    Yeah we're on different food distribution networks. We have to, since our labeling has to be in metric and bilingual.

    I don't know anything about errors in the food labels, but a quick google says the printed values have to be within 20% of reality, and is checked by Health Canada. How is it in the USA?

    We have the same 20% requirement. The first problem (which is true regardless of nationality) is that 20% is a lot if you're counting calories for a diet. The second problem (also true regardless of nationality) is that calorie counts are based on average absorption ratios in the human digestive tract - not everybody absorbs nutrients equally efficiently. Most of the time, this works in your favor (if you're trying to limit caloric intake), you're more likely to have lower-than-average absorption than higher-than-average absorption (especially as you get older). But it can still throw off calorie counts by as much as 10%.

    The other two problems which might be US-specific are: first, a food packager won't get in trouble for oversupplying, but they could get in trouble for undersupplying. If I sell you a bag labeled 100g of potato chips, and it only contains 90g, I've committed fraud. But if it contains 110g, then you've just gotten free chips. The second problem is that the FDA (like a lot of our federal agencies) is underfunded and understaffed, which means our food industry isn't as well-scrutinized as it should be. Our FDA is in a state of perennial backlog, on all sorts of regulatory matters including but not limited to nutrition labels.

    I'm not saying that you should ignore nutritional labels or anything silly like that. Just that my message to any bystanders reading this, especially USians, is that if precise caloric measurements are necessary (say, if you're trying to control a metabolic disease), take nutritional labels with a grain of salt (no pun intended).

    Feral on
    every person who doesn't like an acquired taste always seems to think everyone who likes it is faking it. it should be an official fallacy.
    the "no true scotch man" fallacy.
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