Wednesday, August 3, 2011

When is a Calorie NOT a Calorie?

As excited as I was to get this box of Fiber One's new cereal in the mail (thanks, Paige!) it did bring to light a big pet peeve of mine. First, here's the swag:


Before I start complaining, let me say: the taste of this cereal is delicious! Even hubby tasted some plain, and compared it to Captain Crunch! Definitely a great choice, and packed with fiber. 

So....here begins my issue. This cereal is marketed specifically for it's low calorie count. Honestly, 80 calories per 3/4 serving size is amazing! Only....it's not really 80 calories. Huh? How can they put that on the box then? Here are the nutritional stats:


You can clearly see that one serving has 25g carbohydrates, 1g protein, and 1g fat. So do the math:

25g carbohydrates x 4 calories = 100
1g protein x 4 calories = 4
1g fat x 9 calories = 9

We get a total of 113 calories. I'm no math whiz ( I may have busted out the calculator for that simple addition), but I do know that 80 DOES NOT equal 113. So what gives?

It turns out that since insoluble fiber is passed through the body without being absorbed, it is not counted in the overall calories of a product. Grrr. This just bugs me. When I eat an apple, for 80 calories, I don't sit and figure out which bits of fiber won't be absorbed by me! Sometimes I feel like marketers of products are just constantly thinking of new ways to make calories look lower. Like...

...ridiculously small portion sizes on labels
...underestimating restaurant meal calories and getting away with it
...using "low-fat" and "sugar-free" to convince us something is healthy.

Is there anything about food packaging or marketing that bothers you?
I've ranted enough! Share your thoughts on this whether fiber should be subtracted from calories counts on packaged goods.

Anyone here eat/love Fiber One cereal?
I'm not knocking Fiber One here, it's not their fault! I used to eat the plain variety mixed with another cereal to get my fiber in each day. I haven't tried a variety that I don't like, actually!




46 comments:

  1. Oh wow that is sneaky, way to call them out. Yea i agree that's weird. Low-fat is the thing that drives me the most crazy because it just means they jack up the sugar.

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  2. That gets on my nerves because I end up wasting my money::(.......interesting post though!

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  3. damnnnnnnnnn that is so so sneaky! i hate that! there should be a law against all of that sort of trickery!
    but i have tried that cereal and it is AMAZING

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  4. But it IS FiberOne's fault, for lying on nutrition label. They should be able to say it's 113 calories, but the insoluble fiber makes it a better 113 calories (or something).

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  5. I think companies are very sneaky when it comes to marketing their products. If people only knew more about how food was produced, they wouldn't be serving some of it to their families. It ticks me off, that they can get away with screwing the trusting consumers. This is a HOT topic for me - Can you tell?

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  6. SUPER interesting. I actually just walked by that cereal the other day while talking to my mom on the phone and was like YOU WON'T BELIEVE IT...80 calorie cereal!!! Guess it may have been too good to be true. that is pretty annoying...I hate how they can market it like that.

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  7. Technically it *is* true that (for most people...another issue altogether) you'll only absorb 80 calories BUT the fiber that fiberone uses is really unnatural and not exactly ideal for your GI tract. I have this cereal too -- got a free sample -- and it tastes good but it kind of makes my digestive issues a freakin' nightmare for the next 24 hours after I eat it.

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  8. that is really disappointing to me. another validation of my ridiculous tenancy to walk around life untrusting of all things marketing and advertising.

    fiber one KILLS my gut. all of their products. i try to stick to the natural sources.

    but i'm glad it tasted good! lol

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  9. I've heard the same thing, that for some people FiberOne is like "Woo howdy", but my best friend and I - it does nothing to us. Is that weird?

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  10. Yes, that is a huge pet peeve for me when companies put the calories for one serving size as very low and you have to actually look at the serving size and it is not enough to satisfy a 2 year old child - gahhh.

    The reality is marketing trumps all in the food business - best to be smart and read every label.

    I wish I wasn't sensitive to MSG because that seems to be in everything nowadays - even when they say it isn't they usually are using another source of glutamate that pretty much adds up to the same thing.

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  11. That totally bugs me too! However, what bothers me more is that people actually buy into the marketing and take it as gospel. Because it's in print... Sigh...

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  12. I feel so enlightened! Seriously, I'm yelling at my husband to tell him this so he thinks I'm really healthy smart! Thanks for the insight.

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  13. Who really eats 3/4 cup of cereal as a serving?!

    That irks me!

    I need at least 1 cup for some substance.

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  14. I really like this cereal too, it was surprisingly decilious and low in calories!
    Awesome swag!

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  15. I figured this out a couple years back with the original Fiber 1...I knew it was too good to be true being just 50 cals per half cup. The market does this with alot of low carb products, espically bread. In all though, I don't think it is that huge of a difference.

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  16. Ok that is crazy, and I'm glad you pointed it out. But, I feel I need to disagree a bit with most of your commenters - I feel like consumers need to take a little more responsibility. People who eat an entire bag of pretzels because they are "fat free" and "110 calories" and who never bother to look at the serving size or actual nutrition info sort of drive me crazy. I can say this because my husband complained for MONTHS about not being able to lose weight (I didn't think he needed to!) while I tried to explain to him that he was eating over 1,000 calories of cereal as a "snack" every day - finally he measured and, low and behold, I was right! The restaurant calorie counts crack me up - I can see how you'd believe them if you never worked in a restaurant, but if you have, you realize that in the middle of dinner hour the cooks aren't measuring anything. If you need an exact calorie count, unfortunately, your best bet is to make it yourself, and it's still tough. Sorry for my long rant - not trying to be mean or offend! I do like fiber one cereal in my yogurt.

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  17. WOW...I have never thought about that...that is really interesting!! I have not tried that cereal yet! Agreed on the small portions on food labels....1/2 cup for ice cream, that must be a joke!

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  18. Whoa, that's nuts. I never actually bothered to look that hard at nutrition facts, but you're right, that's freaking sneaky!

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  19. that is interesting with the insoluble fiber and the calorie count.
    however, not defending the companies, with portion sizes i think they actually use what an actual portion is not what we actually eat. i've done programs where you have measured out what an actual portion is and with all types of food it is actually very small unlike what a normal person eats

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  20. ah, I do that all the time and most of the time that count the net carbs. Makes me so upset cause there is no such thing as subtracting calories because of fiber! sheesh!

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  21. You know, I'm an RD, and I never really even thought about it or did the math! bad dietitian. Usually companies do it with "net carbs", but that is at least identified as net vs. total. I'm curious-we talk a lot about food labels and have to know the standards for labeling (like what qualifies as low fat or reduced sodium or whatever) but I've never really seen that done with calories. I'm wondering who else is labeling things this way. I find it very sketchy. Fine, yes, maybe your body only absorbs 80 kcals, but you should still be made aware of the total. Very sketchy. I'm thinking of writing a strongly worded letter.

    I've had the caramel vanilla kind (it was something like that, can't remember.) it is like candy! so good! I can't buy it b/c I can just sit and eat it dry out of the box. And not 3/4 of a cup.

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  22. WOW! Thanks for the heads up!

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  23. That is so weird! I'm so impressed that you caught that. I would never have thought to add it up like that. I would have just blindly believed the box. I think it's lame that they subtracted the fiber. You had a very good point about the apple. They are just trying to make their cereal look better. One thing about food packaging that bugs me is when they put "cholesterol free" on things that are obviously cholesterol free just to make them look healthier.

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  24. I had no idea about a formula. Interesting.

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  25. Great post!!!! It seems unfair that they can get away with it and your right, who sits around to think deduct fiber in the fruits we eat? No one who has anything else to do in their day that's who!
    I haven't had Fiber One cereal but I' a big fan of the 140 kcal granola bars and the 90 kcal ones - unless you have read the label and I shouldn't like them! They are most often my grab and go snack especially at work when I'm running out to a meeting or an event.

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  26. What Sable said - I adore Fiber One cereal, but it MESSES me UP. I can't eat it any where NEAR a long run day, or I will pay, big time...

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  27. Good eye V! Fat-free, low fat, 100 calorie pack crazy marketing is ridiculous and even the aware are susceptible to the hype. Good reminder!

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  28. Never thought to do the math on something like that! Though I don't pay much attention to calorie count for cereal...I just try to buy stuff that has fiber and some protein (usually kashi or quaker oatmeal squares). 113 cal is still pretty good for a cereal though, if you do limit yourself to 3/4 cup.

    Something that bugs me with food marketing is Special K. I don't know why that brand, specifically, peeves me so much. A) They have commercials telling you to: replace two meals a day with a Special K product? right. B) Their "cereal bars" and cereal are lacking some important nutrients. Their cereal bars have no protein, and their cereal has less than 1g of fiber.

    When I see Fiber One, I can't help but think of the SNL skit for the cereal "colon blow" hahaha.

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  29. It drives me crazy to see crap junk food labeled "low fat" or "low sugar" and advertising going along with it that tries to convince people that it's healthy! A low fat twinkie is still a twinkie, people.

    Also, Special K drives me crazy. I actually like the cereal, but come on people. 3/4 cup special k does not a meal make!

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  30. I mix plain fiber one with Kashi and love it. I don't think it's ok to subtract the insoluble calories though. You may not absorb it, but it's deceitful which is where my issue lies...

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  31. I would never have thought to figure that out for myself... but I really appreciate you calling attention to it. I don't count calories, but if I did I would be seriously annoyed!!

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  32. It always bugs me when the fat, protein, and carb grams don't add up to the total calories! Plus I think if it is less than .5 grams, they can say 0 grams. So something may claim to be fat free, but if you have 5 servings, you are really getting a few grams of fat. Those nutrition label people are tricky...

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  33. That's really intersting info! I had no idea there were label loopholes.

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  34. I hate when a seemingly single serving item says "contains two servings". Who opens a bottle of any type of drink (soda, tea, etc) and drinks half and saves the other half for later. The chips that came with my Jimmy John's lunch said that too. No one eats half the bag of chips.

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  35. I had no idea they were allowed to do that! Definitely going to pay closer attention to labels and perhaps even bust out my calculator myself!! Yikes.

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  36. So I am a little embarassed to admit, I never thought about that breakdown before and I am a little nervous I might try to start doing math equations in my head and adding an additional hour to my already hour long grocery shopping :) But I am really happy you shed some light on that!

    I stopped eating fiberone products because they bug my stomach

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  37. I've noticed that on cereal boxes too!! Well, and on most fibery products. I also hate the 3/4c serving size. Just tell us how many calories for a full cup, nobody is eating only 3/4 cup of cereal for breakfast!!

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  38. Great one more thing to add to my list of things I can rant about! :-) I'm still peeved that most restaurants don't offer their nutrition info. It's a constant struggle and when it's made this difficult most people want to give up... But if we keep speaking out the truth will prevail! :-) Ok I'm done now too.

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  39. Whoa. I've done this several times and came to the same conclusion but had no idea why. It has always bugged me too! I can't believe they get away with that.

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  40. Food labeling is a joke. There's so much that they're not even required to label or inform anyone about. When they choose to inform us about something, it's worded in some ridiculous sneaky way.

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  41. Wow, I always assume that companies were bound by law to make nutrition labels accurate. I guess this goes to show you that these companies are sneaky and will wiggle around the truth to make their product more appealing.

    And 3/4 of a cup?! What a joke!!

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  42. My husband informed me that this is nothing new, they have been doing it for years. We looked at other boxes of cereal and it was true no matter what brand.

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  43. This is interesting information. I have never busted out a calculator to calculate. Sneaky eh?
    Thanks for sharing this. :)

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  44. Very interesting! I like to be completely naive and beleive everything the box tells me. he he!

    Haven't tried this cereal but I do love the Fiber 1 chewey granola bars. They seriously taste like a candy bar. So good!

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  45. Labelling laws are weird- because in Canada, they have to count that insoluble fibre as part of the calorie count whereas clearly they don't in the states...

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