Breakfast Cereal OR Candy

In the late 1800s John Harvey Kellogg created a health complex in Battle Creek, Michigan. As a medical student at New York City’s Bellevue Hospital, he became concerned by the increase of indigestion and flatulence in the typical American diet which typically started the day with sausages, beefsteaks, bacon, and fried ham, to which as the day progressed, they added more fatty foods and meat. Fat was becoming, in effect a condiment which was clogging up the system.

John Kellogg took over a tiny health facility, added a gymnasium, and a glassed-in solarium tropical plant garden offering a regimen of baths, enemas and fitness exercise. As the health-spa popularity grew quickly, Kellogg sought to mould eating habits away from unhealthy eggs, meat and fat towards starting the day with assorted healthy mushes of wheat and oats (good old fashioned porridge).

In 1894 Kellogg learned that an entrepreneur who suffered from peptic ulcers had invented a cereal made from shredded wheat. Kellogg and his wife decided to roll their wheat mush into thin sheets and bake it resulting in a flaky breakfast cereal which they served to guests.

Kellogg’s brother Will, the spa accountant, took over and expanded the cereal operation into a locally successful marketable product. Will invented a similar flaked product from corn. Then came the duplicity: Will added sugar to the mix which JH Kellogg disagreed with but which consumers very much enjoyed. Will struck out on his own registering the Kellogg Company resulting in the birth of processed sweetened breakfast cereal.

C.W. Post a snake-oil salesman of the day, after tasting the sugared corn flakes - marketed a similar product from maltose and corn called Grape-Nuts (no grapes, no nuts) and another called Post Toasties. These two products ended up in a sugar laden race to dominate a market which would eventually include Sugar Smacks, Sugar Frosted Flakes, Sugar Corn Pops, Sugar Smiles, Sugar Jets and eventually Count Chocula and other ‘candy’ masked as breakfast cereal.


What started off as a relatively nutritious, quick to prepare morning meal in the early 1900s eventually turned into the sugar laden, candy-like food product of the Boomer generation 1950s childhood – many of whom passed that sweet tooth habit on to their children and grandkids resulting in the burgeoning diabetes / obesity epidemic in North America today.

With the revelation in the 1990s that sugary cereals were contributing to the diabetes / obesity epidemic – Kellogg and General Foods simply dropped ‘Sugar’ from the brand names, while only insignificantly reducing the sugar content.

Too Sweet Or Not To Sweeten            Recent changes to the Nutrition Guidelines accompanying all processed foods including breakfast cereal mandate that all sugars must be consolidated in one area and prominently highlighted so as not to confuse consumers. Typical cereals such as Bran Flakes, Corn Flakes and Rice Crispies show that sugar at 3 grams per 1.25 cup (30g) serving trump the 2 grams of protein. Cereal still contains high levels of blood pressure increasing salts - sodium and potassium.

CSC and our kitchen cafeteria currently follow Canada Health Foods Guidelines and provide a healthy, nutritious variety of foods. However, inmates are of course free to make choices – i.e. too many fries (several are enough), too much sugar and fat laden salad dressing and gobs of sugar loaded ketchup.  Mountain inmates currently have a choice of hot breakfast cereals – Oat Porridge, Cream of Wheat and Red River. Their next choice is brown sugared or not. The very small pot of unsugared hot cereal is testament to which is the most popular choice among Mountain inmates. Up to five pounds (2.3 kg) of sugar are added to each batch of the browner version; (per average 1.5 cup serving this is significantly more empty calories than an equal volume in five or more oatmeal granola bars). Add to that a large dollop of heavily sugared jam and peanut butter along with bread toast carbs and voila – a preference for a huge whack of empty calorie sugar to kick off the day – diabetes and obesity in the making, (peanut butter is at least 25% added sugar). RR