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“Healthy” instant oatmeal has nearly the sugar and salt of Lucky Charms

June 29, 2016


As a person who is homeless I eat inappropriately sometimes. I’m not referring to unhealthy food choices so much as the fact that I don’t always eat prepared foods according to the directions.

Sometimes I eat canned soup cold, right out of the can, when it’s meant to be heated up in a pot first. And I’m no stranger to eating dry breakfast cereal straight out of the box, rather than in a bowl, mixed with cold milk.

Tuesday evening (June 28), while I was binning through the alleys of the Fairview neighbourhood for returnable beverage containers, I snagged an unopened box of Quaker Maple and Brown Sugar Instant Oatmeal packets—the kind that you’re supposed to mix with boiling water.

When I eat heat n serve products cold, I know to expect less flavour. But I had no idea what I was in for when I nonchalantly tore open a packet of this instant oatmeal and poured some of the contents into my mouth.

A salt and battery against my taste buds


Quaker flavoured instant oatmeal is over 32 percent sugar and 8 percent salt.

Expecting the sweet taste of brown sugar and maple syrup-flavoured rolled oats, I instead nearly gagged on a mouthful of sugar and salt with top notes of maple syrup and rolled oats.

Mind you, I shook the packet quite well before opening it. I wasn’t getting all the sugar and salt in one disproportionate blast—it was supposed to taste this way.

Actually the sugar and salt was supposed to be dissolved and diluted in boiling water, so that the incredible salty sweetness wouldn’t have been anywhere near so obvious.

But it’s a fact that Quaker Maple and Brown Sugar Instant Oatmeal is loaded with sugar and salt. It’s barely a healthier breakfast choice than Lucky Charms, the ready-to-eat breakfast cereal with the rainbow-coloured marshmallows.

Instant oatmeal’s (un)healthy amounts of sugar and salt


I mention Lucky Charms because I also scored half a box of it during the same binning excursion and to my taste buds, at least, it didn’t taste nearly as salty-sweet as the instant oatmeal.

However, my taste buds were clearly in shock and not to be trusted.

Official nutrition information shows that in the salt and sugar department Lucky Charms still has an edge on Quaker Maple and Brown Sugar Instant Oatmeal—but not by much.

General Mills Lucky Charms ready-to-eat breakfast cereal has (per 100 gram serving) 678 mg of sodium and 43 g of sugar.

Quaker Maple & Brown Sugar Flavour Instant Oatmeal has (per 43 g packet) 190 mg of sodium (441.86 mg per 100 g) and 14 g of sugar (32.55 g per 100 g).

The instant oatmeal only has 10.45 percent less sugar and 19.17 percent less salt than the kids’ breakfast cereal.

If you forgo the built-in flavouring, by going with Quaker Regular Instant Oatmeal, you get 100 mg of sodium per 28 g packet (357.14 mg per 100 g) and absolutely no sugar.

“processed food” means processed with salt and sugar

While salt and sugar are no longer indispensable as preservatives, that’s only been the case for about 60 years. And it’s argued that the historic saltiness and/or sweetness of cured and otherwise processed foods actually created enduring taste expectations which the global food industry continues to cater to.

That’s as maybe. Adding sugar and salt is the cheapest and easiest way to punch up the taste of otherwise bland fare. And whatever ostensible reason they’re used for in processed foods, sugar and salt still act as preservatives and masks to slight spoilage, thus helping to extend the marketable shelf life of processed food products. Click the images to enlarge them.

  1. Slowcrow permalink

    Dry pet food is much healthier, especially the high-end stuff. Ingredients like trout, duck, and all kinds of veggies are the norm. Good post. We are a strange society, fer sure……..


    • Interesting. I absolutely loved Milk Bone as a teenager! Pet food should be much lower in sodium than human food, apparently (its bad for our four-legged friends) and there shouldn’t be anything in pet food that is technically inedible for humans. However. What few reports I’ve heard and read describes dog food as smelling good but tasting very bland (I vaguely recall this being the case with a Ken-L-Ration “burger”). Also dog food can deliberately have gristle in it, which dogs like a lot but people not so much. Then there’s the fact that if Salmonella and E coli are present in dog food it won’t affect any dogs but it will certainly make us sick.


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