Thursday, March 8, 2012

They Made Me Curious

9 grams whole grain

The other night on TV I caught a General Mills commercial touting their increased levels of whole grain in their Big G cereals.  I didn't catch all the numbers for certain, so I visited their website and found this quote: "All Big G cereals have at least 9 grams of whole grain per serving."  In the interest of full disclosure, I found that the different cereals range from 9 to 20 grams of whole grain per 27 to 30 gram serving. 

They also brag that whole grain is the first ingredient listed, meaning it is in the cereal in higher amounts than anything else.  I might not have thought anything of this latter claim, had they not listed cereals like Apple Cinnamon Cheerios and Chocolate Lucky Charms, and indicating (here) that they are a healthy breakfast choice for our children.  
A check of the list of ingredients for Apple Cinnamon Cheerios shows me that yes, whole grain oats are first on the list, but sugar is 2nd, brown sugar is 3rd, corn syrup is 5th, and apple puree concentrate is 7th.  Where this cereal might offer 14 grams of whole grain per 30 gram serving, it also dumps in 10 grams of sugar, which is roughly equivalent to a tablespoon.  One third of that serving is sugar.  If 1/2 cup of milk is added (14 grams), then, not counting the sugars in milk, the sugars in the cereal are 23% of the serving.

OK, one of my kids might occasionally add a tablespoon of some sort of sugar to their oatmeal, or the equivalent amount of sugar via dried fruit.  But I decided to look at the serving size and number of grams of whole grain in a bowl of our home-rolled oatmeal.  Using the standard serving of 1/2 cup, I got out my trusty Escali scale, and weighed some of our flaked/rolled oats.  60 grams.  
16 grams (top) vs 60 grams (bottom)

According to Quaker Oats, a half-cup serving of their Old Fashioned Oats is 40 grams, so what you have may be somewhere in between.  Wouldn't this mean that oatmeal, as an alternative, offers 40 to 60 grams of whole grain?  A cooked bowl of oatmeal is 240 grams.  If a kid adds 10 grams of sugar, it is 14% of the dry serving, and only 4% of the finished serving.

I was also curious about how our homemade bread (using the whole wheat dough derived from the Challah recipe) might measure up:

  • A cup of wheat weighs 200 grams, so 8 cups in a batch of bread is 1600 grams.
  • The completed dough weighs 109 ounces, so at 1600 g/ 109 ounces, there is 14.7 grams per ounce of dough.  
  • I use 3.25 ounces (92 g) of dough for each sandwich bun, which would mean each of those has 48 grams of wheat (whole grain).  
  • Bread slice thickness and overall size varies a lot, but my best guess for a 2 ounce (57 g) slice of bread is approximately 29 to 30 grams of whole grain.                                                                                                                                                                  1 tablespoon of jam would add 8 grams of sugar, which would become 21% of the serving.  With peanut butter or an egg, the percentage would improve my kids rarely eat bread or toast without added protein.

  • Big G boxed cereals: 33% to 67% whole grain (dry), depending on type chosen.  That's a big difference.  I sure wouldn't say all those cereals are equally as healthy or nutritious, especially as they vary in sugar from 1 to 10 grams, which is 2 to 25%, by weight per serving.  (To give the best benefit of the doubt, this includes 1/2 cup milk for weight, but doesn't include milk sugars)  Some are OK, but many wouldn't meet my definition of a healthy breakfast.
  • Rolled oats with 1 Tbsp sugar: 86% whole grain by weight 
  • 2 slices of toast with 2 Tbsp jam: 79% whole grain by dough weight
2 servings to equal the amount of food in a bowl of oatmeal, means doubling the sugar.  It takes only 2 minutes to microwave a serving of oatmeal, so it's not that time-consuming.  --And expense?  Too much for a big family who could polish off several boxes in a week. Another topic for another day.

I wonder if I may be missing something, and there may be something awry with my comparisons.  Maybe their statistics are measured differently than what I am doing.  If I've gone out to left field, please let me know.  My intent is not to mislead, or exaggerate any facts, but to ponder, try to calculate, and possibly share useful information.

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