I became a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup addict in the late 70s when I lived in the US for a year on a student exchange. To this day the bright orange packaging always catches my eye and my children have grown up knowing that the way into Mum's heart is with a box of Reese's.
But they are a rich dose of treat food, so when I saw this box of cereal I was immediately suspicious. How can you turn something so rich, sweet, nutty and chocolaty into a breakfast cereal?
Whole grain corn — Whole grains are great for the diet because unlike refined grains you get more fibre from the outside layer of the grain and more nutrition. In this case the grain is corn but it is still mashed up and extruded into the little brown balls in this cereal. I had to peel off the sticker the importer had helpfully put over the nutrition analysis to find that actually you'll only get 1g of fibre per 29g serve so that's not a huge benefit.
When looking for a good breakfast cereal we are advised to look for 5g to 15g of fibre per 100g so this falls below that.
• Sugar — Surprisingly there is 10g of sugar per 29g serve which is just over two teaspoons. However, when you consider how small the serving size is that means a third of your bowl is sugar.
• Reese's Peanut Butter (peanuts, sugar, emulsifier (471), peanut oil, salt, molasses, corn starch) — These are all standard ingredients for American peanut butter. Fortunately in New Zealand we can now get peanut butter which is simply peanuts ground up without any additives. This peanut butter has extra additives and the emulsifier mono and diglycerides of fatty acids (471).
• Cornmeal — This is ground corn which will be adding some texture to the little brown balls.
• Dextrose — This is a form of sugar.
• Corn starch — This is like corn flour and will be in here as a thickener.
• Corn syrup — Another form of sugar taken from corn.
• Canola oil — This is also known as rapeseed oil and is a common ingredient in processed foods. The fat content of this cereal is 3g per 29g serve which is good.
• Salt — You will get 160mg of sodium per 29g serve.
• Hershey's cocoa — This will be providing the chocolate flavouring in this cereal.
• 129, 102, 110, 133 and other colour added — These colours are on my list of colours to avoid. Allura red (129), tartrazine (102) and sunset yellow (110) were included in a voluntary phase-out called for by the UK's Food Standards Agency and an EU-wide health warning must now be put on any food or drink that still contains this colour because it is thought to cause hyperactivity in some children.
Brilliant blue (133) is an artificial flavour which has been the topic of many studies, most recently by the European Food Safety Authority and is currently allowed in foods.
• Trisodium phosphate — This is an antioxidant.
• Natural and artificial flavour — Obviously, this means there will be artificial flavours in this cereal.
• Vitamin E (mixed tocopherols) — Added to preserve freshness.
• Vitamins and minerals — Tricalcium phospate, calcium carbonate, zinc and iron, Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B2, Vitamin B1, Vitamin A, Vitamin B12, Vitamin D3.
These are fortifying the cereal to make it healthier.
I was initially sceptical about the serving size recommended for this product at just 29g. Half a cup of muesli is 50g so surely this was a very small serving size which makes it look good in terms of just two teaspoons sugar but how many kids are going to pour out just 29g into a bowl? Then I weighed it and found that actually 29g of this puffed cereal is about a cup. So if you can limit it to a cup then two teaspoons of sugar is a lot better than some other cereals on the market. But you also have artificial colours and flavours which I don't think are ideal in a breakfast cereal.
• Uses whole grains yet provides only 1g of fibre per serving.
• Just over 2 tsp of sugar per serve.
• Uses artificial flavours and colours.