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Cheerios Expands Ancient Grains Under Health Halo
By: Cindy Wendland
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The cereal aisle at the grocery store is quite extensive. For those who love cereal, there are options galore. Did you know that Special K makes a variation called Chocolaty Delight? When did chocolate become a breakfast food? Oh, maybe after Nutella became a lunch sandwich spread. Did you know that Cheerios makes a flavor called Ancient Grains? This is their way to offer a healthy option to incorporate the ancient grains that have come into popularity.

The health craze that has overtaken the nation continues. Ancient grains are one of the latest areas of interest. “They are seen as more healthy, more natural and better for us, providing more vitamins, minerals, fiber and protein than modern wheat — partly because they are rarely eaten in processed form.” They include amaranth, barley, bulgur, kamut, millet, spelt, teff, and quinoa. People who are excluding gluten from their diets find these grains more amenable. General Mills is capitalizing on the ancient grains attraction by including it in their new Cheerios.

The challenge with adding ancient grains to Cheerios is the representation to the public of whether it is really healthy. People think Cheerios with Ancient Grains is healthier, so it falls under a health halo and people buy it and feel they are making a healthy choice. In reality, the manufacturer adds five times more sugar to this version than their regular Cheerios. So is it really healthy? 

Most of the breakfast cereals found in the cereal aisle are not healthy. Sorry to be the one to tell you that. Turn around in the aisle and look at the natural cereals on the other side and you will find better options. Many of the natural cereals don’t use refined sugars and flours, which is what people are trying to avoid by gravitating to ancient grains.

The marketers of huge cereal companies are smart. They have large research and marketing budgets at their disposal. They find the trends and use them. Just because they say it includes ancient grains doesn’t make the cereal healthy. Instead, if you want to eat quinoa, buy it separately and prepare it yourself. It’s not that much harder than cooking rice. You can eat an ancient grain, and it’s completely healthy.

If it makes you feel good to think your cereal is healthier because of the addition of ancient grains, on some level that's OK. Just be aware: It’s really just pretty packaging.

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About the Author
Cindy Wendland has a background in marketing and finance. She is the creative director for an online men's health magazine, BrainBrawnBody.com, and she gets to write their leisure/travel blog. She is also a web designer helping her clients with online community engagement, websitesbywendland.com. Prior to her web years, she worked in pharmacy consulting.
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