Kellogg's Nutri-grain - new but is it really improved?

The new Nutri-grain is improved, but still not one dietitian Rosemary Law would recommend for nutritional value.
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The new Nutri-grain is improved, but still not one dietitian Rosemary Law would recommend for nutritional value.

The Heart Foundation "Pick the tick" programme has come under fire for endorsing food products that aren't considered particularly healthy options. 

Products endorsed may have been low salt or low fat, but many have not been what I would consider healthy.  This has been pretty misleading for consumers who don't want to spend hours label reading and want an easy guide to healthier options.

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The Heart Foundation has introduced stricter criteria, including the sugar content of products. I think this is a good initiative and a great challenge for the food industry which has been pretty slow to make changes in response to our growing problem of obesity and diabetes.

Perhaps in response to this, Nutri-grain has had a make over, and the "new" version is being promoted as a healthy option. I have never been a fan of Nutri-grain.

In my opinion, it has been a classic example of misleading advertising and labeling with little nutritional value, one of those cereals that look healthy but are so full of sugar, you could just about call it lollies.

As well, Nutri-grain was made to look wholegrain and healthy brown by adding molasses, malt and natural colour. In fact, there was only minimal fibre (2.7 grams per 100g), well below the six grams per hundred grams we like to see in a cereal.

So is the new version any better?

The energy (calories or kilojoules) and protein content is the same as the "old" version. With 21 grams of protein per 100 grams, this is good for a cereal.

When I looked to see how a grain-based product can get the protein up so high, I see it must be from the wheat gluten added. The fat content is much the same with one gram per 100 grams in the old version and 0.6 grams in the new - both low in fat.

Carbohydrates are similar - 69 grams per 100 grams in the "old" version and 71.5 grams in the "new". It is good to see that the sugar content has dropped from 32 grams per 100 grams to 26.7 grams, but this is still high and means that more than one quarter of the product is sugar.

I am pleased to see the fibre content is improved to 5.1 grams per 100 grams, and the sodium has been reduced by 25 per cent from 480mg to 360 per 100 grams. The new pack also now boasts a "4 Health Star" rating.

So would I consider this improved enough to recommend it as a healthy cereal option? In fact, I wouldn't. The sugar content remains high. This is still too sweet for a cereal and no amount of added fibre and vitamins can compensate for this.

There is a good selection of cereals that do meet our guidelines with less than 10 per cent sugar and more than 6 per cent fibre to choose from - I suggest you stick with those.

The Nutri-grain story also highlights the problems with endorsing food products and using a rating system.  The "Health Star Rating" system is a voluntary front of pack rating system that our Ministry for Primary Industries is working with the food industry on implementing and is monitoring to see how it is taken up.

As a health professional working on the front line of nutrition education, I am disappointed the system has been implemented without consultation with those of us who work with consumers. So far, we have found milk has a lower rating than some flavoured milks and juice is also high.

This makes me think the system is weighted too far towards energy content rather than actual good nutrient value.  At this stage, I won't be recommending clients use it either.

Easy Muesli 

Easy Museli - a healthy option.

Easy Museli - a healthy option.

Ingredients:

8 cups rolled oats

½ cup coconut

½ cup  honey, melted

Method:

Place rolled oats and coconut in baking dish and mix in melted honey.

Bake at 150-180°C, stirring regularly until golden in colour.

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Leave to cool then add any extras you like: e.g. sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, chopped almonds, walnuts or any nuts of your choice, lightly toasted.

Try some wheat germ or ground linseed.

You could add raisins and dried cranberries but just be careful of amount as these are a concentrated source of sugars.

- Rosemary Law is a NZ Registered Dietitian. 

 

 - Stuff

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