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Good Habits #14 – Sugar Pellets and Pencil Shavings, A Part Of This Complete Breakfast

With some trepidation and some schadenfreude, I find myself about to write another piece about a subject which strikes terror and loathing in the hearts ketovores and carnivores everywhere.  Because when I was a boy, I rarely ate a balanced breakfast.  I know that seems like a non-sequitur.  But it’s not.  My childhood breakfast choices would have caused most low-carb acolytes to faint.  For example, sometimes I would occasionally have pancakes or waffles, which are basically just dessert for breakfast.  And dessert is something we should probably pass on, as I’ve noted in a previous piece.  But I only did this occasionally.  Most of the time, since I’ve always had difficulty dragging myself out of bed, all I had time for was…breakfast cereal.  

I know, I know.  If you’re reading this and you’re one of the Chosen Adherents Of The Church Of Ketosis, I hope you had a defibrillator handy to restart your heart.  The mere mention of breakfast cereal almost certainly just shortened your life by at least a year or two.  Just know that I’m not liable for the newfound heart disease that I just gave you.  And I know a few lawyers who owe me a favor or two.

Anyway, Willy Wonka famously said in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory that breakfast cereal was just made from shavings one finds in a pencil sharpener.  Which upon reflection is mostly true.  At least, based on the taste of many cereals.  Although that’s not the case with all of them.  There are some that are really just hardened chunks of sugar.  So, your options are either grains with almost no flavor or highly refined sugar with flavor but also a high risk of developing insulin resistance.  

Both are something which either a Keto or Carno disciple would have to engage in some quasi-religious cleansing ritual if they ever came into direct contact with it.  Which, based on what I’ve seen in their social media feeds, apparently requires them to eat an outsized porterhouse along with ten eggs and then fast for ten days while bragging about the whole thing on Twitter.  Sorry, I digress.  I find the whole fasting thing to be a bit insufferable.  

Anyway, back to the pencil shavings and sugar pellets.  Every second commercial I saw watching Saturday morning cartoons was a cereal commercial.  Blatant propaganda from some cereal company (which was likely just a subsidiary of some soulless Big-Agra conglomerate) trying to hawk a product virtually guaranteed to give a child early diabetes.  And naturally, we fell for it and insisted that our parents buy us these boxes of dietary iniquities.  

One of my childhood favorites was Corn Pops.  These are crunchy yellowy things covered in sugary sweetness which may or may not involve actual corn.  But, are Corn Pops healthy?  Well, sort of.  A cup of this has 100 or so calories, and provides 15% of the Recommended Daily Allowance of thiamine, riboflavin, vitamin B12, and folate, 20% of the vitamin B6, 10% of the vitamin D, and 40% of the iron.  I know, you’re thinking “Hey Triple D (nobody calls me that) that doesn’t seem so bad.”  Well, that’s what’s in a cup.  Most of us fill the bowl, which is probably more like two cups.  Also, it had enough sugar (10 grams per cup) in there to wind young me up into a tizzy.  

But Corn Pops were hardly the most advertised kid’s cereal. The most common (and the most annoying) cereal commercial on Saturday morning was probably for Frosted Flakes.  A cartoon version of one of the most vicious apex predators on the planet, which really should have nothing to do with any meal based on grain, would try to sell us these sugary flakes every fifteen minutes or so. 

A cup of this stuff that no tiger would ever eat has 140 calories, and also provides 15-25% of the RDA for the various B vitamins, about 15% of the vitamin D and about 90% of the iron one needs in a day.  But also, 11 grams of sugar.  Nearly a quarter of what the USDA says you should have daily.  There’s a reason Tony the Tiger was so annoyingly ebullient.  He was in the throes of a sugar rush.

We also have to mention our favorite cereal that reinforced harmful cultural stereotypes and endangered our immortal souls by having a tiny leprechaun sell us cereal full of various pagan Celtic symbols.  Despite the presence of the marshmallows shaped like unholy symbols, Lucky Charms actually has slightly less sugar than the tiger cereal, with 10 grams of sugar.  A cup has 150 calories.  It also has over 40% of the RDA of most of the B vitamins, including over 80% of B12 and over 100% of folate.  It’s also high in zinc and iron, providing about half and three quarters, respectively, of your RDA.  So it’s decent nutrition for your children, combined with probably too much sugar, and numerous microaggressions against all Irish people.

And then there’s Captain Crunch.  The only thing more irritating than the commercials for this one was the fact that one couldn’t eat them without serious mouth damage.  It’s apparently hardened chunks of sugared sandpaper which are incredibly effective at shredding the skin on the roof of your mouth.  And also probably put me at risk for early sugar-induced disease.  Even more so than the tiger. It has 17 grams of sugar. It’s not without nutrients, with maybe a quarter of the RDA for various B vitamins, and 40% of the iron RDA.  And 150 calories per cup. But the sugar. Even non-Keto cultists like me would find it a bit much.

Of course, the corporate goons selling this stuff would always cover themselves by saying that this cereal was “a part of this complete breakfast”.  And then show a bowl of their sugary hyperactivity fuel in the middle of a table setting including toast, eggs, orange juice, and various other healthy-looking things. Knowing what I know now, it’s actually best to have the “complete breakfast” part and just pass on the processed sugar part.

Of course, not every cereal that was sold to kids was an automatic sugar rush.  Take Rice Krispies, a cereal that three little elves tried to sell us kids. I’m actually a little bit surprised, now that I think of it, at just how many of the cereals I was sold as a kid used images from pagan mythology as part of their pitch.  Anyway, Rice Krispies are ostensibly made from rice, which isn’t necessarily bad as I’ve pointed out before.  A cup of this has about one third of the sugar in Frosted Flakes.  And at only 100 calories per cup, it’ll provide about a quarter of the various B vitamins and just about all of the iron one needs in a day.

And then there’s the cereal that was sold as a happy thing that kids liked, but still felt like a chore to eat: Cheerios.  A cup has 140 calories, only two grams of sugar, most key vitamins in the 10-20% range, as well as a lot of iron and a decent chunk of magnesium, zinc, and phosphorus.  But no normal kid eats this on purpose. Face it, kids that liked to eat this were the ones that volunteered to be hall monitors.

How about the one that was so bland you only ate it when you had nothing else to eat and hated your mom every time she gave it to you? And by that I mean Corn Flakes. It only has about 100 calories per cup and 3 grams of sugar and has about 40% of the vitamin B6 and manganese RDA, 60% of the B12, 85% of the folate, a third or so of the niacin and thiamine and zinc, and over 100% of the iron requirements. It also has no noticeable taste. If your mother gave you this, you’d have a reasonably healthy meal, but it would result in feelings of resentment and anger towards your mother that would fester in your adulthood and lead to a dysfunctional and miserable existence. Also, no taste. So, really not worth it.

But enough of the kid’s stuff.  There are some cereals that are for adults.  These tend to be more the “pencil shaving” variety than the “sugar pellet” variety.  The problem is, they are basically just quasi-laxatives intended mostly for people who qualify for Social Security.

Such as Shredded Wheat.  Which comes in ungodly huge hunks, requiring me to chop them up with the side of my spoon and inevitably splash and knock stuff on the floor.  Earning glares from my mother when I was a kid, and from my wife today.  It has almost no sugar (if you avoid the frosted kind) and 170 calories in a cup, but not many vitamins.  It does provide 100% of the manganese RDA, 25% of the copper, 20% of the iron, and 60% of the iron selenium.  It also provides massive poos.  Frequently the painful kind that take over twenty minutes and result in my wife reconsidering her nuptials.

And for those who want to appear fancy by eating something of European origin, there are various forms of muesli.  Each of these is a mix of grains and nuts that looks like the farmer just dropped random things from his harvest on the floor.  These come in various brands, so we’ll use Kellogg’s Mueslix as an example.  A cup of this has 250 calories, 17g of sugar, 10-20% of the RDA for various B vitamins, 25% of the copper, iron, phosphorus, and selenium requirements, and half of the manganese.  So, the ostensibly healthy one has more sugar than kid’s stuff.  It’s the worst of both worlds, producing both poos and hyperactivity.

And if you’re really in the mood for an old school “grandma” cereal, try Grape Nuts.  It has only 100 calories in a cup and 2.4 grams of sugar.  It’ll also give you 20% of your thiamine and niacin requirements, 50% of the vitamin B6 and folate, all of the iron, and 40% of the manganese.  But eating it makes you feel like you’ve entered your sad, old, and alone phase of life.

And lastly, let’s discuss All Bran, the god king of quasi-laxative cereals.  A cup has 100 calories, 20% of the thiamine, 25% of the riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B12, and B6, 50% of the folate and 40% of the iron.  And about 6 grams of sugar.  All around not bad, but eating this is the cereal equivalent of funneling a fifth of pure grain alcohol.  Only instead of daring your liver, you’re daring your bowels.  All Bran is probably the main reason adult diapers exist.

Then there’s stuff that’s super healthy because it’s been scienced half to death.  And I don’t mean Smart Start.  It actually tastes pretty good, but it’s not noticeably healthier than the other cereals I’ve mentioned.  Nor do I mean Special K, which is about as healthy as Smart Start, with less flavor.  I mean the O.G. fortified cereal, Total.  Which actually does taste like pencil shavings.  But it’s super healthy.  A cup has 100% of all B vitamins, all of the vitamin E (which is hard to come by without eating nuts), almost all of the vitamin C, 60% of the manganese, and all of the zinc.  And 7 grams of sugar and 130 calories.  So it is a good way to get an early start in the day.  But it’s cheating.

Because a lot of these vitamins aren’t there naturally. For example, I’m sure you noticed that many of these cereals have vitamin B12.  Something which normally only comes from dead animals. That’s because they’re fortified.  It’s basically just eating supplements in grainy, keto-unfriendly form.  And I’ve always felt that supplement use is cheating.  Therefore, fortified cereal is also cheating.  I mean, do what you have to do to stay healthy.  But if you use these, I want to make a point of making you feel guilty about it.  It’s cheating.

Of course, there’s one other thing I left out.  These calorie counts exclude half of the calories.  Because only a maniac has cereal without milk.  Not that I’m denigrating milk.  It’s fine.  It’s got plenty of vitamin A and D and whatever.  It’s going to add about 200 calories, though.  Which means a cereal breakfast will actually have 300-500 calories.  

Now, that isn’t bad.  But there’s a big drawback to cereal.  I’ve noticed that breakfast cereal doesn’t keep me full that long.  It doesn’t generate “satiety” (A pretentious word that I find irritating), and I’m hungry again not long after.  It doesn’t count as a full meal if you’re heading back to the fridge an hour later.  So breakfast cereal’s low seeming calorie count is deceptive.

So I guess you could eat old people cereal or science cereal if you’re running late for work.  Or even the kid’s stuff.  They’re all actually fairly nutritious, despite the protestations over grain-based foods one often receives from the Children of The Way Of Ketones.  And the science cereal is particularly good for you, even though it’s cheating.  But you’re probably better off going to bed a little earlier, waking up a little earlier, and having a full breakfast so that you’re not hungry again in an hour.  Also, you’ll not be constantly running behind in your life.

So, cereal is healthy(ish), but if you have to resort to eating it, it probably means you’re a slacker who isn’t able to drag him or herself out of bed at a decent time.  You’re basically a failure any time you don’t have time for bacon and eggs.  Also, if you’re over the age of twenty-five and eat Captain Crunch, Frosted Flakes, or one of the other sugary cereals, it means that in addition to being a slacker and a failure, you’re an overgrown child who doesn’t even have an ounce of self-respect.  


Published by drilldowndiet

Formerly obese CPA/health humorist using Cronometer and FitBod to lose weight. Sharing assorted life hacks to squeeze nutrition and exercise into a busy schedule. Also on Twitter at @drilldowndiet and Facebook.

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