Food has always been a major concern of man, although its nutritional qualities have not been
the most influential factor in his selection of diet. Man appears to choose food from what is
available; he eats what he likes and what "agrees" with him. Early man probably chose from an
assortment of plant and animal foods ranging from roots and leaves, through grubs and insects
(yum!) to any larger animals his ingenuity allowed him to capture.
Things have changed a lot in the last 6 months... instead of only having options from the
low carb food manufacturers, we now have "the big boys" making cereal for "us." Or are they?
Let's look at the whole picture...
Cultural beliefs slowly developed, and in all societies taboos and practices evolved regarding
the types of food eaten, methods of production, storage, and preparation, as well as restrictions
on how and when the food was actually consumed.
The food habits which we have evolved differ markedly from one culture to the next, and what is
considered a delicacy in one is often considered unfit for consumption in another. For example,
a dietary mainstay for the Masai warriors of Africa is a concoction of cattle blood and milk.
Such fare is repulsive to the average American, yet the consumption of a rare juicy steak that
we love is repugnant to the vegetarian Hindu.
Okay... that said, I think we can agree that not a single Masai warrior is likely to be reading
this article. And that with the deluge of "food technology", our enemies of the food world can
no longer be flagged by a sour taste or an animal that won't be felled. Nowdays we're dodging
tasty, seemingly wholesome morsels laden with trans fats and high fructose corn syrup. We try
to decipher labels that profess to tell us what's healthy for us, only to find we cannot find
consensus on what a "net carb" truly is.
If you thought it was a jungle out there for that tribal warrior... try navigating a 21st
century grocery store. And don't expect it to get any easier over the coming months. In fact,
I think the jungle's getting thicker.
Each time we visit the grocery (most any big chain or local store — from WalMart to Kroger to
Albertson's), we see more and more products proclaiming Low Carb! But are they? Do they
really fit into a low carb weight loss plan? Do they adhere to the food principles that most
established plans call for? Can you trust the words on the box?
Well... sometimes. That clears it up for you, doesn't it? The fact is, until more
strict regulations determining what the terms "low carb", "lower carb", "reduced carb" etc. are
put in place, we're going to be left with more questions than answers. Your best bet is to be educated,
know your plan, and READ the ingredients label, not just nutrition labels and hype.
Let's take cold cereals for example...
First up, Kellogg's new
Special K "for a low carb lifestyle" . The front of the appealing
(and soothing) sky blue package proclaims "New!" and shows a large red 9g Net Carbs. Doesn't sound
too bad, right? I mean, it's Special K. Must be good... looks very healthy. Let's look at the
Wheat bran, soy grits, rice, wheat gluten, soybean oil, whole grain wheat, soy protein isolate, sugar, salt, high fructose corn syrup, malt flavor, natural and artificial flavor, ascorbic acid (Vitamin C), sucralose, alpha tocopherol acetate (vitamin E), reduced iron, niacinamide, pyridoxine hydrochloride (vitamin B6), riboflavin (vitamin B2), thiamin hydrochloride (vitamin B1), vitamin A palmitate, folic acid and vitamin B12.
Uh... did I read both sugar AND high fructose corn syrup? In a low carb cereal? And remember, the 9 grams
of carbs are for a 1-oz serving... We asked group members to "pour a normal sized bowl of cereal." Not one
of them kept it to 1-oz... not even close.
What about Kellogg's newest
All-Bran Cereal with Extra Fiber? They don't actually label this one as "low carb," yet a serving of Extra Fiber All-Bran comes
in at only 7g Net Carbs — better than the
Special K. So is this a good choice? Again, let's check the ingredients:
Wheat bran, oat fiber, wheat flour, calcium phosphate, salt, baking soda, high fructose corn syrup, caramel color, calcium carbonate, aspartame, sodium ascorbate and ascorbic acid (vitamin C), niacinamide, reduced iron, annatto color, pyridoxine hydrochloride (vitamin B6), riboflavin (vitamin B2), folic acid, zinc oxide, vitamin A palmitate, thiamin hydrochloride (vitamin B1), BHT (preservative), vitamin B12, and vitamin D.
No sugar this time, but now they're using white flour (that's what "wheat flour" is), and of course it still
contains high fructose corn syrup. They've thrown some aspartame into the mix too... so maybe this isn't
your best bet either.
Let's move on to General Mills... By now, most of
you know they've released Total Protein. It comes in at
8g Net Carbs. And to their credit,
they do not discount sugar alcohols in their count... but they do contain them:
Wheat gluten, whole wheat, whey protein isolate, wheat bran, canola oil, chickory root extract, sugar, wheat flour, almond pieces, calcium carbonate, salt, tetrasodium pyrophosphate, maltitol syrup, honey, vitamin C, trisodium phosphate, color added, brown sugar syrup, zinc and iron, vitamin E, sucralose, A B vitamin (niacinamide), A B vitamin (calcium pantothenate), vitamin B6 (pyridoxine hydrochloride), vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B1 (thiamin mononitrate), A B vitamin (folic acid), vitamin A (palmitate), vitamin B12, vitamin D. Freshness preserved
by BHT, BHA and TBHQ. Contains milk, almond, wheat, and walnut ingredients.
Wow... there's flour, sugar, brown sugar, maltitol, honey... Doesn't seem very low-carb-healthy, does it?
Somehow, the "big boys" seem to think it's just a matter of reaching a low-carb "magic number" for marketing. Are
they right? In too many cases, they are. Too many consumers will grab any product that claims to be low in carbs
and never consider the ingredients. They're banking on it. And when your low carb diet fails, they can
say "we told you so!" and go back to selling you all those healthy cereal grains that have kept them rich and us
fat for so long.
Okay, so we still want our cereal! What are our options? We have two other avenues... those from
the low carb specialty merchants like Keto and Atkins, and the "organic/natural" producers who are beginning
to cater to low carb. Let's look at Hi-Lo Cereal from Nutritious Living.
They state: "Hi-Lo with Strawberries is a great tasting all natural cereal specially formulated to support the nutritional needs of people who want to maintain a high protein diet which is low in carbohydrates and sugar."
And indeed, they do contain only 5g Net Carbs per serving. They contain no
trans fats, no HFCS, no white flour. Their only drawback is that they contain "evaporated cane juice", the
health-food way to sneak sugar into foods and make it sound healthy. Still, it's a small amount, and the
cereal's quite good, so they've made a good effort and earn a place in a sensible low-carb plan. And they now
have a Maple Pecan and a Vanilla Almond variety that don't contain evaporated cane juice.
There's also a new line of cereals from Nu-World Amaranth. Their original flavor contains:
Amaranth flour, yellow pea bran, chicory root extract, rice protein concentrate and pea protein concentrate.
Nothing objectionable here at all... They have a Peach flavor that contains:
Amaranth flour, yellow pea bran, chicory root extract, rice protein concentrate, pea protein concentrate, cold pressed canola oil, natural peach flavors, cinnamon and nutmeg.
These cereals come in at 6 net carbs per serving. They're worth a try!
And now we're back to Keto, Atkins, and other low carb specialty makers... Atkins Morning
Start Cereal proclaims no trans fats, rich
in protein and fiber, no added sugars, and 5g Net Carbs for their Banana Nut
Harvest cereal. It contains no sugar alcohols either... so it's a very good choice.
An even better
choice is Keto Crisp Cereal. Coming in at a mere 3g Net Carbs, it rivals the taste
and feel of Rice Krispies, and contains only 4 ingredients:
Soy Protein Isolate (GMO free), rice flour, malt and salt.
While we used cold cereal brands to illustrate the nature of the labeling jungle, make no mistake that it's
around every corner. When you next head out for your local grocery to "pick up a few things", come with your
very best defenses at the ready. Here's one place it can't hurt to have a little Masai warrior in you!
Copyright © May 2004 Lora Ruffner and Low Carb Luxury
Title photo Copyright © 2004 Neil Beaty and Low Carb Luxury