The new Honey Bunches of Oats cereal product from Post has all the right nutritional buzz words: honey, oats, Greek, yogurt, and whole grains, but this cereal recipe is loaded with processed wheat, processed corn, sugars and corn syrup. Even though it’s a low-fat food, it’s a two-thumbs down choice for anyone on a sugar-free/wheat-free diet or for anyone who simply wants to reduce consumption of these substances.
I deliberately chose to review this particular product because of the extreme example of marketing hype and because deciphering the nutritional information is a bit confusing. My goal is to show you how I make quick independent purchase decisions by 1) ignoring all information on the front of the cereal box, 2) looking at the serving size/calories/and total sugars in the Nutrition Facts box and 3) reading the ingredients list.
First, let’s look at the front of the box. The word NEW is right at the top, and everyone wants something shiny and new. There’s a pretty sunburst. There’s a honey dipper accented by beautiful rays. There’s a big spoon filled with whole-looking oats and grains. The word GREEK is prominantly displayed, and we all know that the Mediterranean diet is one of the healthiest diets in the world. The Greek culture is further suggested by the fresh and appealing blue, white and yellow color theme. All of this messaging looks pretty darn good, and that’s the point of it all. Post wants you to pick up the box, put it in your cart and buy it. There is zero fact-based decision-making information on the front of the box. That’s why you have to turn the box over and look at the back.
Find the Nutrition Facts box and give it a quick scroll. The first thing I notice is the serving size because sometimes it’s deceivingly small. In this case, however, the serving size is reasonable: 1 cup. The next thing I look for is the caloric value. This product has 230 calories without any dairy added, which is an acceptable range for me. 250-300 calories per serving is about my cutoff point. Then I look at the TOTAL SUGARS. This product has 13 grams, which is way over the top and the first big clue that I don’t want it. (For quick comparison, a Kit Kat bar has 20 grams of sugars.) A rule of thumb is to find a product with no more than 3 grams of sugar per serving. Of course, there’s always exceptions to the rule, which means I might buy something with 4 or 5 grams of sugar, but never with 13.
The next place to look is the ingredients list. This is usually the smallest print in the least convenient place. A reprint of the ingredients list for the Honey Bunches of Oats Greek Honey Crunch product is provided in italics below. This is an exceptionally confusing list because the two primary ingredients, Whole Grain Flakes and Greek Yogurt Granola, both have very long lists of sub-ingredients. There are 13 sub ingredients in Whole Grain Flakes, and there are 10 sub-ingredients in the Greek Yogurt Granola. Sub-ingredients always appear right after the primary ingredient and are enclosed in parantheses.
INGREDIENTS LIST FOR HONEY BUNCHES OF OATS GREEN HONEY CRUNCH
Ingredient #1: Whole Grain Flakes (Whole Grain Wheat, Sugar, Rice, Corn Syrup, Wheat Flour, Yellow Corn Meal, Whole Grain Rolled Oats, Malted Barley Flour, Salt, Canola And/Or Sunflower Oil, Honey, Natural Flavor), Ingredient #2: Greek Yogurt Granola [Whole Grain Rolled Oats, Brown Sugar, Whole Grain Wheat, Rice Flour, Canola And/Or Sunflower Oil, Milk Protein Concentrate, Corn Syrup, Sugar, Greek Yogurt Powder (Heat Treated After Culturing), Ingredient #3 Honey, Natural Flavor, Ingredient #4 Lactic Acid, Malic Acid, Citric Acid], Greek Yogurt Style Coated Granola [Whole Grain Rolled Oats, Brown Sugar, Whole Grain Wheat, Rice Flour, Canola And/Or Sunflower Oil, Corn Syrup, Whey, Sugar, Honey, Greek Yogurt Style Coating (Sugar, Palm Kernel And Palm Oil, Reduced Mineral Whey Powder, Nonfat Dry Milk Solids, Greek Yogurt Powder (Heat Treated After Culturing), Lactic Acid, Soy Lecithin, Salt, Natural Flavor)]. Bht Added To Packaging Material To Preserve Product Freshness.
In my real life, it’s unlikely I would actually bother sorting through the ingredients list for this product because I already know the total grams of sugar is too high. But let’s pretend the jury is out and I might still be interested in this cereal. Before even reading the ingredients list, I would notice that it’s unusually long, and this is a major warning signal. The length is telling me that it’s a highly processed product with lots of stuff put into it by Post. We discover, for example, that the yogurt ingredient is actually heat-treated powder (and heat kills the active yogurt culture).
Secondly, I would identify the first four ingredients and find out where the caloric sweeteners and wheat products show up on this list. I’m looking for products where sugars and wheat are either absent or way down on the list. Ingredients are presented in order of what there is the most of, and in this product wheat is first, sugar is second, rice is third, and corn syrup is fourth. The substances I’m trying to avoid or minimize dominate this product. Done. Decision made, and I’m on my way to find another product.
Click here to visit the Post site and learn more about Greek Honey Crunch cereal: