Things I Can’t: Sugary Cereal Calling Itself a Damn Good Source of Nutrition
My mother is getting soft-hearted. Or possibly developing Alzheimer’s. Since I went off to college she has taken to buying kid’s cereal for my brothers: Fruit Loops, Cocoa Puffs, Lucky Charms, and even Cookie Crisp, the most dubious claim to the title of breakfast cereal, are now a constant presence at my parents’ house. Back in my day, she refused to buy sugary cereal. It was not a thing. Occasionally — like, two or three times a year occasionally — she would buy Cinnamon Toast Crunch or Trix or something, but never for breakfast, only for snack. Sometimes for Saturday mornings to accompany our cartoons on the WB, like true 90’s kids. When I was older she made the concession of buying Frosted Flakes fairly often– and cutting them with regular corn flakes. At the time I resented it: I wanted to join my peers in their Yellow-1-and-high-fructose-corn-syrup-induced sugar haze. I too wanted to drain pink-tinged, aspartame-flavored milk from the bowl before setting out on my day. But now, in the wisdom of old age and the clarity of stable blood sugar levels, I realize she was right.
I didn’t really have a reaction when I noticed she was buying them, other than to think, “how the times have changed”. And then. Then I see a box of Cocoa Puffs, proudly proclaiming itself “Wonderbowl. Cocoa Puffs has nutrition you can believe in. A good source of calcium, iron and vitamin D”, and also calling itself a “whole grain first”.
. . . This is a joke, right? I mean, really, we’re gonna play this game? They’ve always pulled the “part of a balanced breakfast” card in their ads, the operative word being “part”. But I guess we’re just skipping that now? Just straight to claiming it has freestanding nutritional merit and totally counts as a balanced meal on its own, all 1 gram of protein to 10 grams of sugar of it. And where is all this iron and calcium and vitamins coming from, Cocoa Puffs? Are they in the corn syrup, which is listed as the third (and therefore third most plentiful) ingredient? Perhaps in the BHT? Or the “natural and artificial flavors”? No wait, it’s probs in the “color added”. Color is chock full of Vitamin A. Science knows this to be true.
This is like when I congratulate myself on being calorically efficient for not using chaser with my six shots of Jack Daniels. It sounds nice; if you’re drunk enough, it even sounds reasonable. Which maybe some people are. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not averse to the occasional bowl of fun cereal — I had a few bites the other day and it was a fond trip down Nostalgia Lane. Kids like sugar, people like sugar, it’s not the worst thing in the world. But let’s call it what it is. I didn’t finish that bowl of Cocoa Puffs and bullshit myself into thinking it took care of a serving of grains or protein for the day. Wait, cocoa comes from a bean, no? Let’s count them as a vegetable too. Are there actually people out there dumb enough to sincerely believe this? Don’t answer that — I know the answer to that, and it vexes me. The point is, you cannot look me in the eye and call yourself a whole grain when the front of the box says, in large print right above the logo, “naturally and artificially flavored frosted corn puffs”.
Only my Jack can pull that kind of shit, because whiskey comes from wheat, and also it’s a liquid and therefore hydrating. Again, science.