Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Snacking, Obesity, and Making Healthy Food Choices

Today I was in a mood for some snacks. So when I finally made it home and saw that my wife had bought my favorite breakfast cereal I knew it just had to be.

After I finished pouring myself a bowl, I noticed that the nutrition information was indicated for one cup of cereal. One Cup? This is what one cup of cereal looks like...

This made me curious, how much cereal do I usually 'free pour' for myself? After measuring my cereal I was shocked to find that I usually pour 3 cups of cereal for myself. Now, my bowl was not overflowing with cereal...In fact I think it looked pretty normal. Here's a picture...

To make sure I was not just being a little over zealous with my pouring, I had my wife pour herself a bowl, with instructions to pour an "average amount". This is what she poured...

She poured a little over two cups of cereal. Since the recommended amount of cereal is one cup, and I poured myself 3 cups, and my wife poured a little over 2 cups, I decided to take the middle ground and look at the nutritional profile for two cups of cereal. It looks like this...
Calories 460
Fat 9 g (saturated 3 g)
Cholesterol 0 mg
Sodium 210 mg
Potassium 820 mg
Carbohydrates 86 g
Fibre 8 g
Sugars 26 g
Protein 10 g
WOW. So what I was about to eat as my "Snack" was going to be almost 1,000 Calories (3 cups of cereal with a cup of skim milk).
But let's stick with the 2 cups of cereal and compare it to my other favorite snack...

The nutrition profile for a Dairy Milk looks like this..

Calories 220
Fat 12 g (saturated 7 g)
Cholesterol 10 mg
Sodium 70 mg
Potassium NA
Carbohydrates 26 g
Fibre 1 g
Sugars 22 g
Protein 4 g

So, the question is, which one is the better snack?

I compared the middle ground of the cereal intake (2 cups) to one bar of Dairy Milk (Even on a really bad day, I couldn't eat two chocolate bars in a row and not feel gross)

The cereal has added vitamins and minerals, has 6 grams more protein, 7 grams more fibre and 4 grams less saturated fat than the chocolate bar.
However, the candy bar has 24o less calories, 60 grams less carbohydrates and 4 grams less sugar than the cereal.
Comparing the ratios of protein to carbs, the cereal has a 1:8.5 ratio of proteins to carbs (I rounded down) while the candy bar has a protein to carbs ratio of 1:6.5.

So the question becomes is 6 grams of protein, 7 grams of fibre and 4 grams less saturated fat more important than the extra 240 calories, 60 grams of carbohydrates and 4 grams of sugar?

To tell you the truth, I'm not sure which is the better snack. I'm leaning towards saying the Diary Milk would be the healthier option, because I have a hard time beleiving the health benefits of an extra 6 grams of protein and 7 grams of fibre are worth the extra 60 grams of carbohydrates, however I know I can eat 3 cups of cereal and feel alright, but if I ate 3 Dairy Milks in a row, I'd be hurting. (which could be viewed as benefit as I simply cannot overeat chocolate to the degree I could with cereals)

My final point is that I think this little experiment illustrates the fact that when we are pointing fingers and proclaiming that certain food groups are causing our obesity crisis and our failing health, we may want to be careful who we are pointing at and why we are pointing at them.


PS- I'd love to hear your opinion...which do you think is the healtheir snack?

PPS- With Thanksgiving fast approaching, and the Winter Holidays after that, maybe it's time you took a look at my weight loss program Eat Stop Eat, and avoid the winter 10.

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Chris said...

I wouldn't say either was a healthy snack! Sugar is never a good option whether it is chocolate or in a cereal

Eat an apple, or a boiled egg.....

paul said...

Most breakfast cereals in general are some of the worst foods you can eat so it doesnt surprise me that the chocolate is better,

Brad Pilon said...

Hi Chris & Paul,

I agree with both of you that neither is a healthy snack.

The point is that cereals tend to fly under the rader, but when you consider a true serving size. It is just as bad, if not worse than a chocolate bar.


Angie said...

I would have a hard time eating either of them for breakfast. I usually choose eggs and veggies. Sometimes I crave cereal, so I'll have a bowl, but I usually add chocolate protein powder which tastes really yummy and I get my cereal AND chocolate fix all in one!

Megan said...

My only thought about the cereal - is that it would certainly have a better satiating effect. My guess is the chocolate bar wouldn't sustain anyone for very long and would only be the first of many snacks. Just a thought :)

Anonymous said...

Hey..I strongly believe the small chocolate bar is the lesser of the two evils...I gained about 30 lbs over a couple of years and I believe it was from my cereal habit..Like you--one day I measured the portion I was eating and the calories were about 1200...I am a small female and this is close to my daily requirements! Honey Bunches of Oats be damned...I avoid cereal now because I tend to overeat it....