Food Detectives

With the help of one of Australia’s favourite nutritionists, Dr Rosemary Stanton, we will expose the truth behind popular children’s foods and the real ingredients they contain.

Food Detectives Investigation #2:

Kids’ Breakfast

Our second investigation has shown that serving up a nutritious breakfast is harder than expected.

Dr Stanton looked at a range of breakfast products in three categories: drinks, biscuits and cereal. Marketed as fast and convenient options, breakfast drinks and breakfast biscuits represent a growing segment of the market, aimed at people who want to eat ‘on the go’.

Media release – Sugar Rush – Popular breakfast products not a good start to the day!

Breakfast Drinks

Dr Stanton’s verdict:

Of the 2 products here, the worst rating would have to go to the My Yummy lunchbox breakfast shake – chocolate with ancient grains. This is because it has been made to sound as though it is healthier than it is and because the quantities of vitamins and minerals are not mentioned.

This is basically chocolate flavoured milk with a list of additives. The ‘ancient grains’ listed on the label may sound ‘healthy’, but ingredients are listed in their order by weight and ‘ancient grains’ is listed at the end of the following ingredients: reduced fat milk, sugar, cocoa (1.3%), milk solids, stabilisers and vitamins/mineral premix. The ‘ancient grains’ content would be negligible.

My Yummy Lunchbox Breakfast Shake – chocolate with ancient grains

Dr Stanton’s Final Verdict: The product could give the impression it is especially nutritious but it is no better than regular flavoured milk. On its own, it is not a sufficient food for a child’s breakfast and it does not substitute for say, a bowl of a healthy cereal with milk and fruit. Not recommended.

The claim that it has the protein, energy and dietary fibre content of 2 Weetbix with 125 mL milk ignores the fact that the Up and Go product has two and a half times as much sugar as the Weetbix and milk.

Up & Go Vanilla Ice flavour

Dr Stanton’s Final Verdict: dominated by its added sugars, this sweet drink is not the way to establish healthy breakfast habits for children. If it intended as a snack, plain milk and a piece of fruit would be a better choice.

Breakfast Biscuits

Dr Stanton’s verdict:

Of the 3 products here, it is difficult to pick which is the worst. All are unsuitable for children. I am going to have to give a tie here for the worst prize to My Yummy Lunchbox breakfast biscuits for their deceptive appearance of being fruity when they are not and to Nutri-Grain bars as they are even worse than the basic Nutri-Grain cereal.

This product has great similarity to sweet wheatmeal biscuits – the same content of protein and dietary fibre, but with slightly more fat (and almost 1.5 times the saturated fat) and slightly less sugar, but not dissimilar. We would hope most people would not be happy to give their children sweet biscuits as a meal!

Red Tractor Brekky Bikks (Honey Crunch)

Dr Stanton's Final Verdict: A most undesirable product for a child’s breakfast

Nutri-grain cereal is not ideal but it contains 44% cereals while the bars have just 31%. The bars also have 10 times as much fat as the cereal (mostly saturated fat), less than half the protein (and you also get extra protein when you add milk to the cereal), even more sugar (37% compared with 32% in the cereal), only two thirds the dietary fibre (although that’s low for both cereal and bars.)

Nutri-Grain bars

Dr Stanton's Final Verdict: A most undesirable product for a child’s breakfast and even though Nutri-grain cereal is a sugary product that I wouldn’t recommend, the Nutri-grain bars are even worse from a nutritional viewpoint.

High in fat (mostly saturated), high in sugars (25%) – present as castor sugar, brown sugar and fruit purees (which contain more sugars). My major concern is that the way the product is formulated makes it sound like a fruity product when its fruit content is negligible. This could deceive many people into thinking the product was a healthy choice. It is not. If you want fruit, pick up some fresh fruit.

My Yummy Lunchbox breakfast biscuits – beetroot and berry

Dr Stanton's Final Verdict: This product as insufficient nutrient levels to make it a product that could ever be recommended for breakfast.

Breakfast Cerals

Dr Stanton’s verdict:

Of these three products, the worst is Nutri-Grain due to its high sugar content.

In good news, Weetbix for kids is a beacon of light for others to follow! The only recommend choice of all the products examined.

Basically a product with not much going for it, except the fact that it is reasonably low in fat and sugar content is fairly mild at 10.6%. A very poor source of dietary fibre.

Kellogg’s rice bubbles

Dr Stanton's Final Verdict: Why bother?

The product does contribute a relatively high content of protein (from the basic cereals plus the wheat gluten). However, at almost one third sugar, and with a low content of dietary fibre, this product cannot be recommended.


Dr Stanton's Final Verdict: Would anyone permit a child to add sugar to make their breakfast almost one third sugar? I hope not, but this product has hidden the sugar, thus reducing the amount of grains.

A stand-out winner, with less salt than the standard Weetbix. The sugar content is low, the fat is low and the dietary fibre is reasonable.

Sanitarium weetbix for kids

Dr Stanton's Final Verdict: A beacon of light for others to follow!

Food Detectives Investigation #1

Kids’ Lunchbox Snacks

Our first investigation has shown that commonly chosen items are not recommended for our kids’ lunchboxes.

Dr Stanton examined the nutritional composition of popular snack foods that parents thought were healthy lunchbox choices. Many of the seemingly healthy snacks were found to be too high in sugar or salt and most provided very little dietary value.

Media release – Not recommended – ‘healthy’ snacks fit for bins, not lunchboxes

“These products show clearly why parents should choose foods such as fresh fruit or yoghurt for their children’s snacks. Five of the 6 products were high in sugar; the 6th is a salty product with no nutritional virtues.

If you adhere to the rule of not eating anything your grandmother wouldn’t recognise, I’d give all of these the flick.”

– Dr Rosemary Stanton

The good: Provides some dietary fibre. The bad: The 30 ingredients include a variety of additives including food acid, emulsifiers, sulphites (known to trigger asthma in some children). Yoghurt and fruit sound healthy but the yoghurt is a ‘compound’ (two main ingredients are sugar & vegetable fat) and fruit makes up less than 5% of the product. With 31% sugars, this is not tooth-friendly.

Uncle Toby’s Muesli Bar – Yoghurt Topps

Rosemary's Final Verdict: Commendable for having 24% rolled oats – but 30 ingredients? It also deserves to be left on the shelf because of its higher kilojoule content. Not recommended.

The good: The wholegrain cereal content is 53% which would provide some dietary fibre. The bad: The second highest ingredient is sugar (no quantity is listed, but total sugars is 27.3% which is high). With a product clearly designed for children, the % DI figures (which are for adults) are confusing and should not be included.

Milo Starz

Rosemary's Final Verdict: If calcium iron and zinc are added, why is the quantity not listed – or is it too small to be meaningful? High in sugars and not tooth-friendly. Not recommended.

The good: Provides some dietary fibre. The bad: The high sugars (40.2%) comes mostly from dates and pear juice concentrate. Blueberry concentrate 7% is blueberry juice concentrates and dried blueberry. The acai content is not listed, although labelling regulations say that the percentage of any named ingredient should be listed. Acai will be very low, being the second last ingredient.

My Yummy lunchbox fruit sticks

Rosemary's Final Verdict: Contrary to the claims on the label, this is no ‘superfood’. The product name is misleading because dates and pear easily trump blueberries and acai. Very high in sugar and not tooth-friendly. Not recommended.

The good: A source of calcium The bad: The added sugar and the very low level of fruit and a range of unnecessary additives make the product inferior to regular yoghurt and fruit. The squeeze pack also encourages children to consume it quickly.

Calci Yum Mickey & Minnie Yogurt Squeezie

Rosemary's Final Verdict: The product has a worthwhile amount of calcium but why not just have yoghurt which would have much more protein and avoid the unnecessary additives and the extensive packaging? This is the best of a bad bunch.

The Good: Gluten free and also suitable for children with coeliac disease (although they would be better off with yoghurt and a piece of fruit. The bad: Very high (56.6%) sugars, much of it coming from ‘Yoghurt compound’ which makes up 75% of this product, with the main ‘compound’ ingredients (sugar and vegetable fat) not found in yoghurt. Insignificant dietary fibre because the ‘berry’ is juice.

Go Natural Frugo’s Berry

Rosemary's Final Verdict: The product is more than half sugar and has many unnecessary additives.

The good: With the small serving size, the kilojoule content is low. Note, however the small serving size is unlikely to provide much satiety. The bad: Too much salt, virtually no dietary fibre or other valuable nutrients.

Kidscare roast chicken potato stix

Rosemary's Final Verdict: A savoury product, somewhat misnamed as it has no actual chicken, only chicken flavour. The dietary fibre is low and the product offers no real nutritional value. Not recommended.

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