[image via Kashi]
I’ll just come right out and say it. I LOVE cereal. But really now, who doesn’t? A bowl full of grainy, carbilicious bread puffs all lathered in milk. Nobody can tell me that’s not “good.” Unfortunately, even though I really, really do loooove cereal in almost the same way that Kel looooves orange soda, I only eat it for breakfast once every so often. Because if I’m being honest, when I do eat it for breakfast, 5 minutes later my stomach is like, “OK, so when are we eating breakfast?” That’s because most cereals don’t contain much protein, which is the nutrient that helps keep us satiated and feeling full for longer periods of time. So I make sure to incorporate protein packed foods like eggs or oatmeal mixed with protein powder at breakfast on most days.
Basically I have a love/ hate relationship with cereal, and Kashi’s Autumn Wheat cereal is my one of my all-time favorites! It’s SO good. But this installment of “Is it really healthy?” isn’t specifically just about that particular variety, because, for a cereal, it’s actually got a pretty stellar nutrition label. (180 calories, 1g of fat, 7g of sugar, 6g of protein and only three items on the ingredient list!)
What I want to talk about in greater detail though, is Kashi as a brand. About how just because it produces some really great products, doesn’t mean that every thing they make is necessarily the best choice. This post was partly inspired by Matchstick Molly’s “Matchstick Challenge # 8,” in which she challenged her readers to go out and find a food that’s marketed as “healthful,” and then use their investigative skills to find out whether or not it really is the best choice. (Basically the theme of all my “is it healthy?” Posts.)
So thanks, Molly. Challenge accepted! My detective hat is on and I’ve got my magnifying glass up against the nutritional facts for a Kashi Cereal that from a distance- with all its pretty colors, nature imagery, and big USDA Organic label- looks pretty darn healthy. But is it really all it’s cracked up to be?
[image via Kashi]
I chose to look at Kashi’s Summer Berry Granola, which was actually recently featured on an “Eat This, Not That” segment of The Today Show. Look at the box. It’s very ornate and colorful, and there’s lots of berries… It must be good for you, right? Well, not so fast. First we have to take into consideration the serving size. The recommended serving size for this cereal is 1/2 of a cup. This is sort of misleading for a few reasons.
First of all, a typical a single-serving of cereal is 2/3 of a cup. 1/2 of a cup is really not that much cereal. And second, just LOOK at the size of that bowl on the box. That’s like, 7 cups of cereal in that bowl. They’re not setting a very good example when it comes to serving size here. I can’t speak for everybody but, the average cereal consumer is probably not going to take the time to pour the cereal into a measuring cup and then into their bowl. I’ll be honest: me, the girl who has learned to measure most of her food for proper serving sizes, usually pours her cereal right into the bowl. Let’s be real here. When you have a bowl of cereal do you want a bowl of milk with four flakes floating around in it, or do you want BIG-ASS-BOWL-OF-CEREAL? Again, I can’t speak for everybody, but I want a big-ass bowl, please.
Lastly, most of the time, when we’re under the impression that something is “good for us,” we’re much more likely to eat more of it without realizing that we’re eating way more than is necessary for one meal. So with all that being said, for my intents and purposes I decided to evaluate the nutritional values for one cup. (AKA closer to the more realistic amount that would end up in your breakfast bowl.) And if we’re having cereal we can’t forget to count the milk, so I’ll stick with the standards that The Today Show used in their “Eat This, Not That” segment and say that most people would pour 1 cup of 2% reduced fat milk over their cereal.
Calories: 500 +
Fat: 16.8 g
Now, although I don’t personally think that the above macronutrient breakdown is ideal for an everyday type breakfast, I’m also not necessarily saying that it’s “bad.” However, it just goes to show that if we’re not paying attention to the details of packaged foods that we eat, it’s very easy to go overboard without realizing it.
I also took a look at the cereal’s ingredient list. It read as follows:
Kashi Seven Whole Grains; Sesame Blend (Oat(s) Rolled Whole, Wheat Hard Red Winter, Rye, Barley, Triticale, Rice Brown Long Grain, Buckwheat, Sesame Seed(s)), Cane Juice Syrup Evaporated, Canola Oil Expeller Pressed, Arabic Gum, Strawberry(ies) Freeze Dried, Blackberry(ies) Dried, Salt Sea, Dried Kiwi, Honey, Flavor(s) Natural, Malic Acid, Soy Lecithin, Citric Acid, Tocopherols Mixed Natural To Preserve Freshness, Milk Non-Fat Dry
I don’t see anything too crazy or alarming in there. So overall, I think this cereal could be considered healthful. It’s really just the serving size that sort of throws it for a loop.
Out of curiosity though, I decided to check out some of Kashi’s other products and I did find a few that I personally feel have way too many unpronounceable ingredients and way too much added sugar to be considered “natural” or “wholesome.”
None of them are that outrageous. I’m not saying anything here is necessarily “unhealthy.” I’m simply saying that, depending on what your goals are, there might be better choices out there. I believe that the better choice is always the whole food. So if you have the option, a handful of almonds, a really easy homemade pizza topped with vegetables, or real cheese with whole wheat crackers could be the better choices in these cases.
So, are Kashi products “good for you”?
I think that as a “healthful” food brand they’re trying. The most important lesson we can learn from this particular product is to pay attention to serving sizes and not to blindly trust any product’s front label- AKA: the copy and images designed to sell us the product. Always read nutrition labels so you know exactly what you’re putting into your body, from there, you can evaluate the value of the product based on your goals.
But overall, remember that just because a brand claims their product is good for you and they’re able to make it look super healthful, doesn’t always mean it’s the best choice.
*Some of the content in this post has been updated since it’s original date of publication.