This Probiotic Cereal Doesn’t Make Me Happy Inside

Probiotic foods continue to be one of the hottest food and nutrition trends. And now Kellogg’s has jumped on the bandwagon with a new probiotic cereal called Happy Inside. While this new offering is certainly on trend, I think they’ve missed the mark in a number of ways:

1. “Yogurty probiotic pieces” that are neither yogurty nor probiotic.

Don’t be fooled by the mention of “yogurt,” these are pieces of candy. They’re made of unnecessary ingredients like sugar, palm kernel oil, and Greek Yogurt Powder (which is heat-treated, killing any beneficial bacteria.)

2. Four kinds of added sugar, totaling 9 grams per serving

I’ve certainly seen worse, but it reminds me of General Mill’s “healthy” fail a few years ago with their high protein Cheerios, which added only a modest amount of protein but a whole lot of sugar. (What were they thinking?)

3. A single strain of probiotic bacteria

When it comes to live and active cultures, it’s just one lonely strain (Bifidobacterium lactis HN019) with a limited amount of research to back it up. Although HN019 may enhance immune function in the elderly, the strain otherwise has a small portfolio of effectiveness.

4. Plenty of marketing gloss

The cereal calls itself a 3-in-1 product because it contains fiber, prebiotics, and probiotics.  However, “prebiotic” and “fiber” are just two ways of saying the same thing.   (See also: What are prebiotics?)

The Bottom Line on Happy Inside

Rather than spending big bucks on this highly processed food, you can get more pre- and probiotic benefit at a lower cost with higher nutritional value.  For example, stir 1/3 cup of Swiss Muesli (I like this no-added-sugar brand from Familla) into 2/3 cup unsweetened kefir and refrigerate overnight for a gut-friendly breakfast without all the junk.


Is Halo Top Ice Cream Healthy?

Piper writes:

“Ordinarily, I try to eat natural, whole foods. But I have a soft spot – literally and figuratively — for ice cream. There are some new brands of ice cream, such as Halo Top, that are supposedly higher in protein and lower in fat, sugar, and calories.  The main ingredients are milk protein concentrate, erythritol, corn fiber, and other things one would not find in premium ice cream. Being able to eat an entire pint of ice cream for just a few hundred calories is tempting. But are these products too processed to be good for us?”

Premium ice creams made from milk, cream, and sugar can claim to be less highly processed and perhaps more “natural.” They are also deliciously rich–meaning, high in sugar, fat, and calories. If you’re the type that can savor the recommended (but ridiculously small) half-cup serving size, you can enjoy a decadent treat without doing too much damage.

The problem is that most of us can easily plow through an entire pint of Ben and Jerry’s (did I mention the part about delicious?), at which point we’ve consumed a half day’s worth of calories and four day’s worth of added sugar.

One of the big attractions of Halo Top ice cream is that you can eat the entire pint for about the same number of calories as a tiny scoop of Ben and Jerry’s.  You also get 20 grams of high-quality protein, 12 grams of fiber, and 24 grams (one day’s worth) of added sugars.  For many people, Halo Top wouldn’t just be a healthier dessert option; it would make a more nutritious breakfast!

What is in this stuff?

Although taste is highly subjective, I actually think they taste pretty darned good. Which is surprising when you look at the ingredient list, which contains things like erythritol, prebiotic fiber, milk protein concentrate, vegetable glycerin, organic guar gum and organic stevia leaf extract (in addition to things like milk, eggs, cream, and cane sugar).

This is not a minimally-processed food, by any stretch of the imagination. But perhaps this is processing put to a good cause. Continue reading “Is Halo Top Ice Cream Healthy?” >

Eating meat without feeling guilty

About ten years ago, I cut way back on the amount of meat I was eating, from 3-4 times a week to 3-4 times a month. I wasn’t worried about my health. And I enjoy a good steak or roasted chicken as much as anyone. I stopped eating meat mostly because I felt guilty about it.

I had concerns about the treatment of the animals I was eating, the environmental impact of large scale livestock operations, the sustainability of it all. I tried to research which farms and brands were raising their animals humanely and responsibly but it ended up being easier just to order (or cook) vegetarian meals instead. Continue reading “Eating meat without feeling guilty” >

Probiotic Tea: Is this for real?

Josh writes:

Tea with probiotcsThis Thanksgiving, my grandmother had a lemon ginger tea from Bigelow, which had probiotics in it. I was surprised to see a dry tea that did not need refrigeration but still claimed to have probiotic properties. The tea was delicious. Even if the probiotic element might be questionable, would it be harmful to consume the tea anyway?


A. Probiotics are hot these days and adding some to your product is a sure way to increase sales. But does tea made from these tea bags contain any beneficial bacteria?

Actually, it does! Bigelow has selected a special strain of probiotic known as Bacillus coagulans. This particular strain is highly tolerant to heat as well as extremes in pH balance. As a result, it can survive both boiling water and stomach acid!

OK, so the bugs actually make it to your gut. But do they do anything for you once they get there? Possibly, yes.

Consuming bacillus coagulans on a daily basis may have positive effects on digestive function, including reduced gas and bloating after meals. (Ginger’s not bad at this, either.)  The probiotics might also have modest anti-inflammatory and immune-stimulating properties–although these have not been linked to any specific health outcomes such as a reduced risk of colds.

The tea is certainly safe to consume and the probiotics might add some modest benefits above and beyond the herbs. Enjoy it in good health!

Pros and Cons of Pea Milk

“My family recently replaced our lowfat milk with pea milk.  We’re trying to do our part for the environment and the advertising suggests that pea milk is much healthier than dairy. I’d love to know the health benefits and drawbacks of pea milk.”

If they come up with any more nondairy milk options, they’re going to need a second aisle for them at my grocery store!

One of the latest entrants into this category is a beverage made from yellow peas.  Like soy milk, pea milk boasts more protein than most other nondairy milks. With 8 grams of protein per serving, it’s comparable to cow’s milk. Legumes such as soybeans and yellow peas a also a relatively complete source of protein, although not quite as complete as dairy. Continue reading “Pros and Cons of Pea Milk” >

Product Review: TrueSelf Low FODMAP bars

banana_largeAs the low FODMAP diet continues to gain popularity and credibility as a way to reduce the misery of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), it was only a matter of time before low FODMAP products started showing up in the market place.

TrueSelf Foods recently sent me samples of their new line of low FODMAP snack bars to review. The bars come in 4 flavors and can be purchased on the company’s website. A box of six costs US$15.

The bars are oat-based, sweetened with brown rice syrup, and feature a variety of seeds (chia, sunflower, pumpkin, poppy), fruits (banana, blueberries) and spices (cinnamon, ginger, lemon, nutmeg). Also some quinoa, just for good measure. Continue reading “Product Review: TrueSelf Low FODMAP bars” >

Product Review: Siete Grain-free Tortillas

2016-06-11 13.04.59I recently received samples of two new grain-free tortillas from Texas-based Siete Foods–one made from almond flour and the other from cassava and coconut.

Tortillas that are gluten-free, grain-free, dairy-free, vegan (almond only), and Paleo-friendly will have obvious appeal to a wide range of “special needs” dieters.  And these are quite tasty!

The ingredient lists are short and sweet and each tortilla tastes reassuringly of its namesake ingredients–the almond having a warm nutty flavor and the cassava/coconut tasting faintly of fresh coconut. Continue reading “Product Review: Siete Grain-free Tortillas” >

New low glycemic sweetener is higher in calories than indicated

I recently received a sample for review of a new sweetener from Italy called Dolcedi, made from organic apples. According to the manufacturer’s website:

“Dolcedì’ can be used any way you would use traditional table sugar or honey and in the same proportions; one teaspoon of sugar equals one teaspoon of Dolcedì’.”

It’s promoted as having a lower glycemic index than sugar–which it does. But the manufacturer also claims that it’s 25% lower in calories than sugar–which it is not.

When used as directed, Dolcedi actually provides 31% MORE calories than sugar.

Continue reading “New low glycemic sweetener is higher in calories than indicated” >