Tag Archives: Nutrition labels

Raisin bran and other sugary cereals

An article about sugary cereals caught my attention this week. The story’s online thumbnail paired an image of a bowl of raisin bran cereal with the title, “Best and Worst Breakfast Cereals.” I thought raisin bran was one of the healthier choices. It’s only wheat flakes with a little fruit, right?

Alternatives to sugary cereals

The story, posted by David Zinczenko with Matt Goulding, a Yahoo! Health Expert, reports that a one-cup serving of raisin bran contains 19 grams of sugar. As an alternative, the writer suggests substituting Kellogg’s All Bran, which contains only 7 grams of sugar, and then adding a tablespoon of your own raisins for a total of 13 grams of sugar — 6 grams less sugar than raisin bran.

Compare the alternative

Let’s compare apples to apples — or should I say, “flakes to flakes”? Manufacturers aren’t required to separate sugars added to improve taste from naturally occurring sugars on the nutrition facts label. So how much sugar listed on Kellogg’s Raisin Bran’s nutrition facts label is from the raisins, and therefore naturally occurring, and how much sugar has been added to improve taste?

Remember, the nutrition facts label for Kellogg’s All Bran states 7 grams of sugar, and according to the ingredient list, the only ingredients other than added sugar are whole wheat and wheat bran. But let’s face it, whole wheat and wheat bran processed into flakes is going to need a little help to taste good.

I’ll assume a serving of Raisin Bran also has one tablespoon of raisins. Subtract 6 grams of sugar found in one tablespoon of raisins from 19 grams of sugar found in one-serving of raisin bran and you’re left with 13 grams of sugar — 6 grams more sugar in one serving of Kellogg’s Raisin Bran (without the raisins) than found in one serving of All Bran flakes.

What’s “added sugar” and what’s the daily limit?

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends eating no more than 6 teaspoons (24 grams) of discretionary or “added sugar” for women and 9 teaspoons for men. AHA defines discretionary and added sugars as “sugars and syrups that are added to foods or beverages during processing or preparation. It does not include naturally occurring sugars such as those found in milk (lactose) and fruits (fructose).”

Discretionary sugars – use them wisely

A single serving of Kellogg’s Raisin Bran contains slightly more than half my daily limit of discretionary sugars. All Bran contains a little less than one-third, but I don’t like All Bran, even with the added raisins. I prefer to enjoy my discretionary sugar, so after careful analysis, I’ll skip All Bran and occasionally have a bowl of raisin bran.

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Nutrition facts label: a must-read for good health

Make sure that packaged and processed foods don’t foil your efforts to maintain a heart-healthy diet. Unless you read and understand the nutrition facts label, you could be consuming more fat, salt and sugar on a regular basis that you realize.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for protecting the public health, which includes ensuring that the nation’s foods are safe, wholesome and sanitary. This includes regulating food labeling and deciding what information must appear on food packaging and which information is not permissible or misleading.

Scan the label

The nutrition facts label found on packaged and processed foods is required by the FDA and has all the information necessary to help maintain a heart-healthy diet. At first glance, it might seem like it would take too long to read the label each time you purchased a packaged item. Learning which information to focus on and where to find it makes it easier. After a few times, scanning the label for the most important information only takes a second or two. I focus on just a few key items when I’m pressed for time:

Nutrition Food Label

  • Serving Size — The entire package is not always one serving!
  • Calories —  Lists the calories in each serving.
  • Total Fat — Saturated fats and trans fats are included in this section
  • Cholesterol — Found directly below total fat.
  • Sodium
  • Sugar
  • % Daily Value — Based on a 2,000 calorie per day diet. Your calorie intake may be more or less, but simply following this average will keep you in line without needing to calculate your precise requirements.

For more detailed information, visit the FDA’s Web site.