Why Does Michelle Obama Think Honey Nut Cheerios is a Healthy Breakfast?

Last week,  First Lady Michelle Obama held a holiday reception with children, parents and staff at the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. Chit-chating with the kids, the subject of healthy breakfast came up. From the transcript:

CHILD:  What’s your favorite thing to eat for breakfast on Christmas morning?

MRS. OBAMA:  Oh, wow, that’s a good question.

CHILD:  I usually eat Honey Nut Cheerios.  (Laughter.)

MRS. OBAMA:  Okay, we’re not going to do any advertisements.  (Laughter.)  But that is a healthy breakfast, it is.

CHILD:  You should eat some cookies…

Cheerios has definitely earned its place in the pantheon of trusted and beloved American brands. And Honey Nut Cheerios has been positioned as the sweet yet still healthy alternative to the sugar-free regular Cheerios brand.

But is it a healthy breakfast?

What you need to know:

Honey Nut Cheerios boasts its Honey and claims it can help reduce cholesterol:

Honey Nut Cheerios® cereal is a great tasting way to help lower your cholesterol. It’s made with real honey for a delicious sweet taste and soluble fiber from whole grain oats to help lower your cholesterol.*

Oh, in the small text we learn that:

* Three grams of soluble fiber daily from whole grain oat foods, like Honey Nut Cheerios® cereal, in a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease. Honey Nut Cheerios cereal provides .75 grams per serving.

But guess what, a serving of Honey Nut Cheerios contains only 2 grams of fiber. That’s even less than Froot Loops and Apple Jacks!

Here is Honey Nut Cheerios ingredient list:

Whole Grain Oats (Includes the Oat Bran), Sugar, Modified Corn Starch, Honey, Brown Sugar Syrup, Salt, Tripotassium Phosphate, Canola and/or Rice Bran Oil, Natural Almond Flavor, Vitamin E (Mixed Tocopherols) Added to Preserve Freshness. Vitamins and Minerals: Calcium Carbonate, Zinc and Iron (Mineral Nutrients), Vitamin C (Sodium Ascorbate), a B Vitamin (Niacinamide), Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine Hydrochloride), Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin), Vitamin B1 (Thiamin Mononitrate), Vitamin A (Palmitate), a B Vitamin (Folic Acid), Vitamin B12, Vitamin D3.

Take note, the second ingredient is Sugar. Not Honey. So there’s one bluff – General Mills would have you think that it’s Honey Nut, but it is more like “Sugar Without Nuts Cheerios“. There is only a hint of “Natural Almond Flavor”, which may or may not originate from real almonds.

To Honey Nut Cheerio’s defense, the total sugar count is 2.5 tsp, which is slightly less than most children’s cereals. There are also no artificial colors and no trans-fats.

So is this a healthy breakfast? Let’s just say there are many healthier options in the cereal category, but there are also many other cereals, especially for kids, that are not.

What to do at the supermarket:

If you are a Cheerios fan, the best option is regular Cheerios with less than half a teaspoon of sugar and 3 grams of fiber. Multigrain Cheerios are also a better choice then Honey Nut, because they have 3 grams of fiber, and only one and a half teaspoons of sugar.

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  • Sweetwater Tom

    And another thing…

    It takes 3 grams of soluble fiber daily for cholesterol reduction. One serving contains .75 grams, so you would need 4 bowls of cereal. Hardly worth crowing about!

  • Joan Mercantini

    The best advise here is to ditch the Cheerios and head straight for the eggs and bacon.

  • http://www.thetableofpromise.blogspot.com The Table of Promise

    Eat oatmeal. Cheerios is not the greatest thing out there. And eating Cheerios with all the extra additives is not the same as eating a bowl of steel cut oats.

  • Kimberly

    It seems likely that she considers it “health” because of the Cheerios “health halo”

    • Ordazpaul

      i agree

  • Bill M

    But wait, it hasa bee on it. How can anything associated with bees be unhealthy?

    The honey nut variety is terrible. The regular Cheerios is what I like. My grandpa and I would eat them with sliced strawberries or bannanas when I was a kid. Still brings back that memmory. You could tell me that regular Cheerios cause cancer and I would still eat them. Food is powerful thing.

  • http://www.newtaste.com Dave Schy

    I would guess that she was just being positive and polite.
    Not sure we have an international crisis here…yet!

  • Lynn Neel

    Kids want cereal. It is better than most cereals that they want. I mix my Honey Nut Cheerios with the healthier cereals and at times add nuts and berries. Yum….. Michelle has been working and promoting better food choices in schools and to parents. I am impressed as a feminist and working mother and grandmother with our First Lady. This change critical to our health crisis in America!

  • Lynn Neel

    Lynn Neel :
    Kids want cereal. It is better than most cereals that they want. I mix my Honey Nut Cheerios with the healthier cereals and at times add nuts and berries. Yum….. Michelle has been working and promoting better food choices in schools and to parents. I am impressed as a feminist and working mother and grandmother with our First Lady. This change is critical to our health crisis in America!

  • http://Fooducate Tired of being taxed by the Gov’t

    Now wasn’t she supposed to supporting child nutrition??? And she’s recommending Honey Nut Cheerios???? What’s wrong with this picture?

  • Jason

    Only healthy ingredient is the “whole grain” oats (highly refined “whole grain oats” at that).

    If you truly want whole grain and healthy you need to get some whole grains in the bulk section of your supermarket or get something like Bob’s Red Mill which is made ONLY with grains. I recommend their multi-grain and muesli cereals, some of which are organic to boot. Skip the oils, sugar, preservatives, added vitamins, “natural” flavors, etc. If you want to add sugar, honey or whatever, you can add it on your own.

    Oh yeah, steel-cut (Irish oatmeal) oats rock – also in the bulk section or made by McCann’s (in the tin, not the instant variety). Avoid these big-business cereals.

  • http://www.thefrugaldietitian.com Nancy-The Frugal Dietitian

    This comes from a woman who does juice cleanses and “”hires” chefs for the obesity epidemic – where are the Registered Dietitians? I truly appreciate her putting this problem in the public eye but her advice and answers should be referred to the Health Professionals.

  • http://www.thefrugaldietitian.com Nancy-The Frugal Dietitian

    Let me add that Honey Nut Cheerios is still better than PopTarts, that have been served to the toddlers in our local Head Start program for breakfast.

  • Maroonsista

    Okay, so if one serving provides 2 grams of fiber, then that only means that a person needs to have TWO bowls of it to get that fiber. In addition to that, this cereal is certified by the American Heart Association. Are Fruit Loops or Apple Jacks? The cereal is made from 100% natural whole grain oats and oat bran. Are Fruit Loops and Apple Jacks? Whole grains also have carbohydrates that provide the main source of energy for the body, in addition to vitamins B and E. You’re asking why would she recommend it. I’m asking, “Why wouldn’t she?”

    • http://www.facebook.com/jbellantuono1 Joseph Bellantuono

      Because the main ingredient is sugar & sugar in excess is not good for you’re health & waistline especially in the long term not to mention they are low fiber which makes it worse. Also many processed grain products are not truly whole grain plus the vitamins & minerals in this product are added & not naturally occurring like in raw fruits and vegetables. Also they are very likely GMO which may or may not also be unhealthy in the long term. Many illnesses people get these days are dietary related and getting in the habit of eating sweet stuff like this despite its BS health claims is definitely not a step in the right direction nutritionally!

  • Maroonsista

    Honestly I just don’t understand your logic in this blog. Take a look at what 3/4 of Honey Nut Cheerios has, from Omega 3 fatty acids to Vitamin D on (http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/breakfast-cereals/1540/2).

  • http://www.advicegoddess.com Amy Alkon

    Actually, the science (not the “science” put out by our government) says that it’s carbohydrates — sugar, flour, starchy vegetables like potatoes, apple juice — that cause the insulin secretion that put on fat. For the science on diet, read investigative science journalist Gary Taubes (his soon-to-be published follow up to “Good Calories, Bad Calories,” “Why We Get Fat,” will be out in a few days). Other sources of dietary science are Dr. Michael Eades and Dr. William Davis, a cardiologist. Anyone who tells you oatmeal is a healthy breakfast is not telling you based in science but what they read on CNN, etc.

    • Doug Cunningham

      Right on Amy! Simple carbs are killing us (albeit slowly). ADD/ADHD (as well as Type II Diabetes) can be reversed by cutting down on carbs and taking good mineral supplements.  For those who want smarter and better behaved kids, check out “Brighter Mind” by Dr. Kyl Smith. Very informative.

      Doug Cunningham
      http://www.90Essentials.com 

  • DGD

    The Fooducate App gives Honey Nut Cheerios a ‘B’. If it’s so horrible shouldn’t it have a lower grade?

  • http://offbeat-ana.blogspot.com/ Sarah NY

    I think 3/4 cup honey nut cheerios with almond milk and a side of fruit (apple, orange, strawberries, blueberries) is a decent breakfast for children or anyone. The fruit provides some extra fiber to accompany the 2 grams in the cereal. I also admire the First Lady for bringing the nutrition crisis into public awareness.

  • Dan

    She is a food advocate by virtue of her position. She is not a dietitian, and she definitely doesn’t have a clue about processed food manufacturing. Canola and/or Rice Bran Oil – tells you right away this is a least cost formula, where manufacturer has flexibility to use whichever is cheaper at the time of production. The natural flavor probably has never been near an almond. The ingredients like honey are not those pure things like honey in a jar, and may contain additives that aren’t declared on this label. Further No preservatives really there, but what’s added to the packaging? Also, where do those ingredients come from? I’m sure the ascorbic acid is from China.

  • J. Richards

    do you know how many jr and sr hi students come to school with NO breakfast or eat TastyKakes and a Coke for breakfast? I’m sorry, people, but be realistic. I’d much rather have my kids/students eating Cheerios with milk.

  • Gabby

    Yeah, I’m not a fan of Michelle Obama, but what exactly was the woman supposed to do? Crucify the kid’s mother in public for her health choices for her child? Worry more about her husband’s policies than Michelle’s love affair with Cheerios, come on.

    • Jonathan Osborne

      I think the idea here was that it was better to eat Honey Nut Cheerios then Super-Sugar-Sparkle-Balls cereal.

  • http://twitter.com/eatdinner Grace Freedman

    I admit, I occasionally buy Honey Nut Cheerios as a treat for my kids. But we know it’s not the healthiest choice. My teen noted the logical inconsistency on a recent box. “So they say that 95% of Americans don’t eat enough whole grain. Then they say that GM cereals provide most of the whole grains Americans consume for breakfast. So, that means it’s GM’s fault that we are not getting enough whole grain! Why would they promote that?” If they are so influential, at least they could do something about it, like actually providing more whole grain and less sugar!

  • Bobby

    They are tasty tho :)

  • Truth

    Roger that growth hormone modified grain. There isn’t much left in this world that is any good for you. Your basically playing roulette.