by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Cereals

Apr 18 2024

The updated and better WIC package: a look

The USDA has made some changes to food packages for participants in the Special Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).

In a Q and A, the USDA explains the changes and why it made them.

What are the WIC food packages?

The WIC food packages provide supplemental foods designed to address the specific nutritional needs of income-eligible pregnant, breastfeeding, and non-breastfeeding postpartum individuals, infants, and children up to five years of age who are at nutritional risk.

WIC participants receive a monthly benefit from one of seven science-based food packages, according to their life stage nutritional needs. Participants then use their WIC electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card to buy the food and beverages in their package.

If you want to know what’s actually in the package, it’s a lot easier to go to state sites; the USDA site does not help much.

Try New York State’s WIC site. Women with children can use their EBT benefits to buy these foods (women with infants can also get formula and baby food):

  • Low fat (1%) or nonfat (skim) milk for women and children two years of age or older
  • Whole milk for children one to two years of age
  • Cheese, yogurt, evaporated milk, evaporated goat’s milk, or dry milk as milk substitutions
  • Soy beverage and tofu as milk alternatives
  • Dry beans, canned beans or peanut butter options
  • Whole wheat bread or other whole grain options (whole wheat tortillas, brown rice, whole wheat pasta) for children and pregnant and mostly or fully breastfeeding women
  • Cash value benefit for fresh, frozen or canned vegetables and fruits
    • Women receive $11.00-$16.50 depending on breastfeeding status
    • Children receive $9.00
  • Eggs
  • Whole grain cereals
  • 100% unsweetened fruit juice
  • Canned fish for fully breastfeeding women

Going back to the USDA site. I looked at the changes, lots of them excellent. 

One is expanded benefits in general, and for fruits and vegetables in particular.

Another is improved benefits for women who are breastfeeding.

But for Breakfast Cereals, here’s what the USDA proposed.And here’s what it got, post lobbying.


The bottom line: less whole grain, and more sugar.

Does this make any difference?

In principle, yes. The USDA should not make decisions based on the food companies’ demands to make their products qualify more easily for WIC purchases.

It would be good to keep as much ultra-processed junk food as possible out of the WIC package.

These cave-ins are unlikely to make any noticable difference to health, but set a bad precedent.

Here’s what happened with the rest of the package, mostly to the good.

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Jan 18 2024

Misleading product of the week: Veggieblends Cheerios

I think it’s time to start a new “of the week” series of posts—this one on egregiously marketed food products.

Thanks to Jerry Mande, who sent me this email:

Are you writing about Veggie Cheerios? An especially egregious case of misleading marketing. This could be Rob Califf’s Citrus Hill Fresh Choice moment. Particularly troubling is that original Cheerios, a go to finger food for moms of infants and toddlers, is lower sugar and higher in fiber than Veggie Cheerios  –  which only have 2g sugar plus 4g fiber. These new Cheerios have 8g sugars – from corn syrup – and only 2g fiber. Certainly, adding ¼ c. fruit & veggies shouldn’t cause the fiber to go down!

I hadn’t run across this version during my What to Eat revision visits to supermarkets, although I was aware that Cheerios, that old reliable cereal for kids, now came in more than 20 options—line extensions to take up more supermarket shelf space; the more shelf space, the more get sold.

I went right to the link:

Cheerios Veggie Blends Breakfast Cereal, Blueberry Banana Flavored, Family Size, 18 oz

Sure enough.  1/4 cup fruit & veggies.   And you get blueberry, banana, spinach, carrot, and sweet potato.  Impressive!

Here’s what Walmart says about it:

Available exclusively at Walmart [no wonder I hadn’t seen it], a wholesome bowl of Blueberry Banana flavored Cheerios Blends Cereal contains 1/4 cup of fruit and veggies in every serving.*

Uh oh; a footnote.  I went right to it:

* Cheerios Blends Cereal is made with fruit puree and vegetable powder. See complete list of ingredients. It is not intended to replace fruit or vegetables in the diet.


As for the ingredient list:

Whole Grain Oats, Corn Meal, Sugar, Sweet Potato Powder, Corn Starch, Carrot Powder, Canola and/or Sunflower Oil, Banana Puree, Blueberry Puree Concentrate, Corn Syrup, Salt, Spinach Powder, Vegetable and Fruit Juice Color, Tripotassium Phosphate, Natural Flavor. Vitamin E (mixed tocopherols) Added to Preserve Freshness. [the rest are added vitamins and minerals].

You want fruits and vegetables?  Eat fruits and vegetables.

You want Cheerios?  I vote for the boring original.

I think I will go to Walmart and buy a box.  I want this one for my cereal box collection.  I don’t think it will be on the market long.

Oct 11 2023

What’s up with the Kellogg split?

If Kellogg’s splitting into two companies and changing its business model makes no sense to you, join the crowd.

Apparently, Kellogg is not selling enough cereal to keep its stockholders happy: ready-to-eat cereal unit sales declined in both 2021 and 2022 by roughly 8.5% and 3.5%,

To try to fix this, Kellogg has split its North American company into two new companies.

Somebody has to explain to me why this will make a difference.

  • More focused attention on cereals?
  • Hope that some bigger company will buy one of these?
  • Stock splits for investors?

Will this do anything for Kellogg’s customer base?  Seems doubtful, but let’s wait and see.

Stay tuned.

Jul 24 2023

This week’s Industry-funded study #1: breakfast cereals

I have been sent so many examples of industry-funded studies that I can’t keep up with them.  This is a slow news week and I’m traveling, so how about I post several.  Here’s the first.

My thanks to Katie Iwanowski for sending this one.

The study: The Relationship of Ready-to-Eat Cereal Intake and Body Weight in Adults: A Systematic Review of Observational Studies and Controlled Trials Lisa M. Sanders, Mary R. Dicklin, Yong Zhu, Kevin C. Maki.  Advances in Nutrition, Volume 14, Issue 4, 2023, Pages 671-684.

Results:  RTEC[Ready to Eat Cereal] consumers (2 – 4 servings a week), as compared with non- and less frequent consumers have lower BMI, lower prevalence of overweight/obesity, less weight gain over time,  less anthropometric evidence of abdominal adiposity.


  • RTEC may be used as a meal or snack replacement as part of a hypocaloric diet, but this approach is not superior to other options for those attempting to achieve an energy deficit.
  • RTEC consumption was not associated with significantly less loss of body weight, or with weight gain, in any of the RCTs.
  • RTEC intake is associated with favorable body weight outcomes in adults in observational studies.
  • RTEC does not hinder weight loss when used as a meal or snack replacement within a hypocaloric diet.

Funding: This research was funded by Bell Institute of Health and Nutrition, General Mills Inc. The funding sponsor commented on the study design’s early aspects, reviewed the final data, and provided input to the manuscript.

Author disclosures: LMS is a consulting scientist, and MRD and KCM are employees of Midwest Biomedical Research, which has received research funding from General Mills Inc and Kellogg Company. LMS has received funding from Kellogg Company. YZ is an employee of General Mills Inc.

Comment: This cereal study was funded by a cereal company which—this is quite unusual—disclosed its involvement in the study’s design, interpretation, and writing.  The study results are a classic example of interpretation bias.  Basically, breakfast cereals don’t make much difference to body weight (it’s overall calorie balance that counts), but the conclusions are spun positively.  I especially like the double negative, “not associated with significantly less loss….”

Jun 22 2023

Dubious product of the week: Chocolate for breakfast

Chocolate for breakfast? Kellogg’s + Hershey’s collab takes cereal to new heights in IndiaThe breakfast cereal giant has joined forces with one of the largest chocolate manufacturers in the world to launch Kellogg’s Hershey’s Chocos on the Indian market…. Read more

When I saw this, I wondered what was new here.  We already have plenty of chocolate breakfast cereals, organic and not, most of them aimed at kids.

These, for example:

At best, these cereals have some cocoa in them, usually as the 5th ingredient or less.

I can’t find an ingredient list for the cereal aimed at India, but I did find one for similar products sold in other countries.

Chocolate is the first ingredient!

Candy for breakfast!


May 14 2023

Industry-funded study of the week: cereals!

Thanks to reader Maira Bes-Rastrollo at the University of Navarra in Spain (and whose work I greatly admire) for this one.

The Relationship of Ready-to-eat Cereal Intake and Body Weight in Adults: A Systematic Review of Observational Studies and Controlled Trials.   Lisa M Sanders, Mary R. Dicklin, Yong Zhu, Kevin C. Maki.  Advances in Nutrition

Objective: to evaluate the effect of RTEC [Ready to eat cereals] intake on body weight outcomes in observational studies and RCTs [randomized clinical trials] in adults.

Methods: A search of PubMed and CENTRAL databases yielded 28 relevant studies, including 14 observational studies and 14 RCTs.

Results: Results from observational studies demonstrate that frequent RTEC consumers (usually ≥4 servings/week) have lower BMI, lower prevalence of overweight/obesity, less weight gain over time, and less anthropometric evidence of abdominal adiposity compared to non-consumers, or less frequent consumers.

Conclusion: RTEC intake is associated with favorable body weight outcomes in adults in observational studies. RTEC does not hinder weight loss when used as a meal or snack replacement within a hypocaloric diet.

Support: This research was supported by Bell Institute of Health and Nutrition, General Mills, Inc. The funding sponsor provided comments on early aspects of the study design, reviewed the final data, and provided input to the manuscript.

Conflicts of Interest: LMS is a consulting scientist and MRD and KCM are employees of Midwest Biomedical Research which has received research funding from General Mills, Inc. and Kellogg Company. LMS has received funding from Kellogg Company. YZ is an employee of General Mills, Inc.
Comment:  This is an industry-sponsored, designed, influenced, if not conducted, and written study with one goal: to make you believe that eating breakfast cereal is better than any other breakfast choice.  If a Journal of Industry-Funded Marketing Studies existed, this paper belongs right there.  I don’t often see examples as straightforward as this one, and didn’t want you to miss it.
Mar 6 2023

Annals of marketing: eat cereal at bedtime!

Really, I can’t make this stuff up.

Thanks to Jim Krieger of for sending me to Food Navigator-USA: Post launches the first-ever cereal designed to promote sleep.

A cereal meant to be consumed at bedtime?  I wanted it for my cereal box collection, and there hasn’t been a good one like this for a long time since the FDA started discouraging ridiculous health claims.  I went straight to the Ithaca Walmart and scored a box.

Sweet Dreams, the box tells you, is “part of a healthy sleep routine.”

The front-of-package claims:

  • Made with whole grains
  • Supports natural melatonin production with zinc, folic acid, and B vitamins
  • Excellent source of Vitamin E for neuroprotection

The back-of-package claims:

  • Sleep…We want to help you enjoy it.  With delicious wholesome ingredients, curated vitamins and minerals, and a specially formulated night-time herbal blend, our dreamy cereal is part of a healthy sleep routine.
  • Made with a night-time herbal blend containing a touch of lavender and chamomile

I looked up the website:

For 130 million American adults, a good night’s sleep is elusive. You deserve good sleep, and we want to help you enjoy it! So, we made Sweet Dreams cereal, the first ready-to-eat cereal specially designed to support a good sleep routine and a fresh start to the next day…Available in Blueberry Midnight and Honey Moonglow flavors, make Sweet Dreams cereal a part of your bedtime routine and enable a better sleep cycle while satisfying those nighttime food cravings.


I hardly know where to begin: “curated vitamins and minerals”?  “Supports natural melatonin production”?

This last is a structure/function claim like those for supplements.  It requires only the barest hint of scientific substantiation.

Reader, I ate it.

The cereal is crunchy, with occasionally visible almonds, but is cloyingly sweet (to my taste): A cup of cereal has nearly a tablespoon (13 grams) of added sugar– 24% of a day’s total sugar allowance.

No wonder it’s so sweet.  Sugars appear seven times on the ingredient list.

Whole Grain Wheat, Rice, Cane Sugar, Almonds, Whole Grain Rolled Oats, Canola and/or Soybean Oil, Flavor Clusters (Sugar, Corn Syrup, Degermed Corn, Palm Oil, Natural Flavor, Cocoa (processed with alkali)(for color), Blueberry and Carrot Concentrates (for color)), Salt, Honey, Corn Syrup, Barley Malt Extract, Molasses, Tocopherols (Vitamin E) to maintain freshness, Natural Flavor.

Post must be trying to sell more cereal.  Eat cereal at night?  Well, if you have sleep problems I suppose you can give it a try.

I ate this cereal in the morning.  It did not make me feel sleepy.


For 30% off, go to  Use code 21W2240 at checkout.


Aug 31 2022

Annals of marketing: sugary kids’ cereals

It’s hard to know what to make of the new products heading for the market.

Here’s one.

The rapper Calvin Cordozar Broadus Jr (aka Snoop Dog) is planning to introduce a new breakfast cereal (When?  Sometime soon).

Just what we need.  Another sugary cereal targeting kids.

If a Nutrition Facts label is available, I couldn’t find it online, but I’m guessing 30-40% sugar, and full of color and flavor additives, and super ultra-processed.

But it’s gluten-free and some of the sales revenues will go to support Door of Hope, which advocates for homeless families.

Despite the do-good aura, it’s not what nutritionists recommend, alas.  Well maybe as an occasional treat.

Will Kellogg complain about copyright infringement?  This is clearly a Froot Loops copycat, only with marshmallows—more marshmallows, no less.