Tuesday, May 4, 2010

What's for Breakfast: Raisin Bran "The Worst"?

By Ed Bruske
aka The Slow Cook

Raisin Bran is a "healthy" cereal, right?

Not according to a recent health column published on the Yahoo! site. Columnist David Zinczenko called Kellogg's Raisin Bran with the smiling little sunshine on the cover "the worst iconic cereal" of all. It's all about sugar. Here's what he had to say:

"It'll be hard to find a more sugar-loaded cereal than Raisin Bran. It’s sweeter than even Lucky Charms, Reese’s Puffs, or Cocoa Krispies. Some of that sugar can be attributed to the raisins’ natural blend of fructose and glucose, but the real culprit is the sticky white armor of sucrose that enrobes each piece of fruit. Both Kellogg’s and Post are guilty of this raisin mistreatment, so what should be a legitimately healthy bowl of fruit and grains pours out closer to a candy-coated dessert."

Fact is, giant food companies like Kellogg's give out huge sums in "discounts" (some people call them "kickbacks") to food service companies like Chartwells-Thompson--the one that provides food service for D.C. schools--to carry their products. And since Chartwells-Thompson serves millions of meals to kids all across the country, we can only imagine what those "discounts" add up to each year.

So there are corporate incentives to steer kids to sugary cereals like Raisin Bran, and also imprint the Kellogg's brand on them in the process.

In the breakfast above, this elementary school child had on her tray 11 grams of sugar in the Raisin Bran, 28 grams of sugar in the strawberry-flavored milk, 11 grams in the orange juice and six grams in the graham crackers. That's 56 total grams of sugar, or the equivalent of 14 teaspoons. (The American Heart Association recommends no more than six teaspoons of "added" sugar per day for an adult woman.)

But if you can't eat good ol' Raisin Bran, what can you eat? Zinczenko recommends another Kellogg's product: All Bran. Just add a few of your own raisins.


  1. So... why can we NOT work with smaller cereal makers such as Barbara's Bakery or Nature's Path or Erewhon to bring better cereals to our kids in schools - lower sugar, lower sodium, more "real" whole grains and tasty too??!! It's time to approach these companies and see what IS possible - it may be bulk cereal dispensers or finding a more environmentally friendly way to do bowlpacks for Breakfast in the Classroom. Yes, the cost will be more, because the BIG companies essentially GIVE THE CEREAL AWAY to build brand identification and loyalty with kids for the sugary, high profit margin cereals. We have to be willing to forego the supply chain incentives - can we do that? (According to current federal regulation all those supply chain incentives are supposed to benefit the school district - however, I wonder who really knows that and who's able to be the watchdog on that?) I say "yes we can!" and we should for the sake of our children's health and happiness!! The time is now to bust up supply chain incentives (or should I say supply chain tactics) that have a stranglehold on our school food supply and therefore our children while captive in school.
    Dorothy Brayley
    Executive Director
    Kids First

  2. It's not just about the brand (although I'm all in favor of more organics and supporting smaller companies) -- it's the choice of the actual cereal, isn't it? As much as I'd love my school to go organic, there's a middle step they could take to be healthier. I'd be happy if our school served plain Cheerios or Kix instead of Honey Nut Cheerios (which my kid is allergic to, anyway) and Apple Jacks.