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Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Cereal Crimes: Kashi Blueberry Oat Clusters & Flakes Review



I'll admit right up front that I am not a big fan of breakfast cereal.  I have eaten my fair share though, as it was always a favorite when I was a kid.  My mom says if you stacked all the Shreddies I've eaten over my lifetime, they'd likely reach the moon.

But the honest truth is that I really don't think cereals do a body good.  Oh, and I don't really enjoy them anymore anyways.

It wasn't until after my mother's cancer diagnosis, in 1998, when I really go serious about nutrition, that I kicked the cereal habit.  Up until then, I thought cereal was a healthy choice.  After all, I never ate Fruit Loops or Frosted Flakes, only Mini Wheats, Shreddies and Low-Fat Harvest Crunch.  Good grief, I look back and realize that while these may not have been the worst choices out there, they are - like most cereals on the market - all completely full of sugar!  Cookies in a bowl, I say.

The only time since then I've eaten cold cereal was during my pregnancy with Little A, when the thought of oatmeal, my usual breakfast, made me want to hurl, and I had strong cravings for Raisin Bran.  I was downing about a quarter of a box a day.  I'm not proud of it, but I also learned you can't mess with pregnancy cravings (unless you want someone to get hurt).

Aside from simply having loads of sugar, I don't find that breakfast cereal provides lasting energy or satiation.  Even if I eat half a box (which is probably 5x the recommended serving size), I'm starving an hour later, and this is consistent with research studies that show high protein breakfasts, like eggs, help people control their appetite better for the rest of the day.  Obesity expert, Yoni Freedhoff also discusses his anecdotal experience with cereals among individuals seeking help for weight loss on his blog.

Are there healthy options out there?  Sure!  All those organic puffed grain cereals with no added sugar or salt, but I think they taste like styrafoam.  There are also some companies making organic, whole grain cereals with less sugar than the conventional brands, but I don't find most of them particularly appealing, nor satisfying.  Even a large bowl, containing 2-3 servings of these cereals with almond milk or whatever milk you favour, isn't likely to keep you satisfied for long.  Others like Holy Crap or Sexcereal and full of nutritious seeds and other ingredients, but are crazy-calorically dense.  Oh, and cereal is freaking expensive!  Like it blows my mind how expensive it is.  Adam only buys his favorites on sale, or if they are a good deal at Costco.

Personally, I'd much rather have a steaming hot bowl of whole grain oatmeal with cinnamon...which is my breakfast EVERY morning.  I alternate adding a few tbls of either ground flax or whole chia seeds.  Honestly, I can't think of a tastier, more satisfying way to start the day.

But I also realize that not everyone digs hot cereal.  Adam likes it, but he LOVES cold cereal.  The sweet, high fibre kinds.  Fortunately, he now limits himself to having it only one morning a week.  But it means we always have cereal in the house, and occasionally the girls eat it too.  At least it isn't an everyday thing for them either as they both prefer toast or pancakes for breakfast.

Anyways, despite my lacklustre feelings for breakfast cereal, I agreed to review  Kashi's new Blueberry Oat Clusters & Flakes cereal.  It's called Kashi Oat Flakes and Blueberry Clusters in the U.S., which I'm guessing is because the formulation is slightly different and/or it was easier to translate the Canadian name into French as per our bilingual packaging laws.

The Kashi brand tends to have a bit of a health halo on it, so you may be surprised to know that it is owned by Kellogg.  So, how does this cereal stack up?

I think it tastes okay...crunchy and sweet...but I'm not the biggest cereal fan.  Adam thought it was okay but 'bland' which in Adam-speak generally means not sweet enough.  Big A shrugged her shoulders after I forced her to try it (she probably was reluctant because I was pushing it at her) and Little A simply refused to try it.

And what about nutrition?  I certainly didn't expect it to be fabulous, but I was surprised to find it really isn't any better than any other high fibre cereal out there.

Here is the ingredient list:

INGREDIENTS: Oat blend (whole grain oats, oat bran), rice, evaporated cane juice syrup, whole grain oats, cracked seven grain blend (whole: oats, hard red wheat, rye, brown rice, triticale, barley, buckwheat), brown rice syrup, barley malt syrup, multigrain crisps (whole wheat flour, brown rice flour, corn flour, dried cane syrup, whole grain oat flour, wheat starch, salt, calcium carbonate), blueberries, expeller pressed canola oil, salt, natural flavour, colour (vegetable juice), mixed tocopherols (for freshness).                       

The second ingredient is 'rice' which most likely means white rice.  The third is evaporated cane juice syrup which is sugar.  There is also brown rice syrup and barley malt syrup which are two more kinds of sugar.  The multigrain crisps are made from several types of flours plus more sugar.  The blueberries, at least, are actual blueberries and are not coated in MORE sugar.

1 cup has 220 calories, 2.5g of fat,  5g of fibre, and 6g of protein.  But it also has 13g of sugar, most of it added sugars (i.e. not naturally occurring sugars from the fruit).

1 cup of Oatmeal Crisp Maple Nut Flavour, one of Adam's favorites, clocks in at 220 calories, 2g of fat, 4g of fibre, 5g of protein and 15g of sugar.  All-Bran Cranberries and Clusters gives you 180 calories, 1.5g of fat, 7g of fibre, 4g of protein and 12g of sugar in a 1 cup serving.

The Kashi does get brownie points for using only natural flavours and colours and fewer creepy preservatives, like BHT.

So would I recommend the Kashi cereal.  No.  But I wouldn't recommend breakfast cereals period.

If you love cold cereal, I recommend making your own, whether this is overnight oats (you'll find a billion recipes on food blogs out there), muesli, or taking unsweetened grains, nuts, seeds and/or fruits and making your own unique mixture.  Or if you simply cannot fathom the idea of giving up your sugary favorites, try making them a little addition to your meal rather than the star.  Eat eggs and have a small serving of cereal and milk on the side.  Have Greek yogurt and fresh fruit and sprinkle a small amount of cereal on top.  Or, take plain oats or other unprocessed grains and mix them 2:1 with your favorite commercial cereal.

If you want some healthier breakfast alternatives, check out my breakfast recipes.  Remember, having the right meal in the morning is the best way to ensure you stay energized throughout the day and are able to manage your appetite with appropriate food intake later on!

Disclaimer: I was sent a free box of Kashi Blueberry Oat Clusters & Flakes but all the opinions expressed on this blog are my own.

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