I’ve always loved cereal and as a child I downed bowls of Golden Grahams for breakfast and sometimes dinner too. When I grew up, I ate Fiber One on top of my yogurt while sitting in my cubicle at work. I thought it was very healthy for my body (because of all that fiber and would help me lose weight), and just didn’t understand why I didn’t look and feel my best after eating it. Thankfully I found much healthier cereal later in life but before I tell you about my favorite kinds, we must discuss what is really going on in the “healthy cereal” industry.
It’s estimated 94% of us have cereal in the cabinet – but a century ago hardly anyone did. Cereal was the first processed food, making life easier for Americans (and now for people all over the world). Cereal requires no cooking, no skills, and it’s just about as easy as you can get. We want everything to be quick and easy, and this has become an epidemic in this country. This is why cereal has been called the biggest success story of the modern food industry, and as put by author Michael Pollan, “Breakfast cereals in many ways are the archetypal processed food product of modern capitalist food economics”.
Millions of dollars are spent on advertising cereal every year, and while most of it aggressively targets children, they heavily advertise to adults as well – from Trix “Silly Rabbit” commercials, free prizes, online games (advergames), celebrity endorsements, product placements, and the marketing messages on the box – we are inundated with their marketing messages every day. It’s all done to make us believe that we don’t have time prepare real food for our families and that their vitamin-fortified creations will give us (and our kids) the energy we need to get through a hard day.
But, when you take a hard look at cereal, what is it really?
In reality, the cereal industry is making billions selling us cheap commodities like corn and sugar, mixed with cheap additives like artificial colors, dumped into a colorful box with cartoon characters. Mainstream cereals are so heavily processed that they do not have natural nutrients, that’s why most of them are sprayed with vitamins, minerals, and sometimes fortified with protein. It’s the ultimate fake food.
The marketing messages on the cereal boxes sure sound healthy: “High Fiber”, “Protein”, “Gluten-Free”, “Low Fat”, “All Natural”, “Essential Vitamins” and “Good Source Of (insert vitamin here)”. But, is cereal really good for us or is it just processed junk food? Several “healthy” cereals contain questionable additives that should never be in a healthy breakfast.
Some of the WORST ingredients you’ll find even in “Healthy” cereal:
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