Worst Food of the Week: Pop-Tarts

YOU HAVE TO GIVE KELLOGG’S CREDIT. Through some sort of marketing magic, they’ve convinced everyone Pop-Tarts are a breakfast food. Now, if only we could get them to use that marketing magic for good and not junk food, we might achieve world peace.

At least Quaker had the guts to come right out and call their product a Breakfast Cookie. And in fact, a homemade oatmeal cookie would be healthier than either Quaker or Kellogg’s breakfast treats.

THERE’S NO POINT IN LISTING POP-TART INGREDIENTS. They come in about 30 different flavors (not counting the printed or limited edition flavors) with names like Ice Cream Shoppe™ Vanilla Milkshake, Frosted Wild! Grape, and Frosted Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough.

Some also carry front of box claims like 20% daily value of fiber, one serving of whole grain, and 25% less sugar.

But here are some points to note:

  • In most (if not all) Pop-Tarts, 5 of the first 6 ingredients are sugars or oils.
  • Any Pop-Tarts with color, whether on sprinkles, in frosting, or in fruit, is getting its color from dyes. The strawberries aren’t red, the red dye is red.
  • The fiber in Pop-Tarts is from inulin. Better to get fiber from fruits, whole grains, and veggies – not Pop-Tarts.
  • 25% less sugar means the Pop-Tart “[c]ontains 25% less sugar than 55 to 75 of the top 100 toaster pastries.” It also means more fat content (they have to make up for the lack of sweet somehow).
  • With any product, it’s important to look at the whole nutritional package, not just the sugar, calorie, or fat content.

POP-TARTS ARE ONE OF THE FOOD PRODUCTS that are continually singled out as nutritionally lacking and inappropriately marketed towards children. In 2006, the Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU) of the Council of Better Business Bureaus recommended Kellogg’s remove the phrase “made with real fruit” due to consumer complaint; however, the phrase is still used.

The bottom line: Kellogg’s does seem to think we can be easily fooled by creative use of the truth in marketing. But we know better. Pop-Tarts should be considered treats, not an every day food (and definitely not a breakfast food!)

If you are interested in making some homemade Pop-Tart-like treats or hearty oatmeal raisin cookies, try these recipes. They are delicious and don’t contain synthetic additives or trans fats.