How Not to Stay Healthy With Wheaties

Wheaties Breakfast

While writing my previous article, I came upon this image. It must be from the late 1970s. And look at the breakfast that we are supposed to keep fit with:

  • Bowl of Wheaties (110)
  • Three strawberries (12)
  • Two pieces of Wonder Bread toast (158)
  • Glass (8 oz) of orange juice (112)
  • Milk (4 oz) for the Wheaties (73)
  • Glass (12 oz) of milk (219)
  • Cube of butter for toast (102)

Okay, I’ll admit: it isn’t a cube of butter. But it is enough butter for about half a loaf of bread. I really wonder if General Mills is heavily invested in the dairy industry. They have, regardless, a cozy relationship. And I think even at that time, we had a good idea that milk was not something we should be consuming a lot of.

Also of interest here is that this “keep fit” breakfast has a whole bunch of grain. And I say that as a grain guy myself. But really, is it necessary to have two grain products in this breakfast? We have bread, which is made out of wheat. And then we have a cereal that, if I had to guess, you know, based on its name — “Wheaties” — was made out of, I don’t know, wheat?

But this isn’t all wheat and dairy. We also have a hulking big glass of orange juice. I remember in the day, this was called “a serving of fruits and vegetables.” It doesn’t much fly. Once you distill fruit down to juice, you remove most of what is good for you. There really isn’t much more to say for the glass of orange juice in the picture up there than there is for a can of Pepsi. Except that your mom probably wouldn’t have complained.

The numbers above are the approximate number of calories. I used whole milk, of course; this is from the 1970s! But that adds up to a total of 786 calories. And I’m going easy on this. Those glasses look bigger than I’ve estimated. And despite what every breakfast cereal label in America says, people put more than a half cup of milk on their Wheaties. And I’m pretty sure there is more than a tablespoon of butter on the bread (that’s what I used, not my joke cube). That’s a whole lot of calories for what is an uninspiring meal.

As you may know, I don’t much think about nutrition. It is filled with pseudoscience. Every time I hear about the current nutrition fad, I ignore it. I just don’t care. In a few years, they’ll probably be saying something different. And I don’t care anyway. I just eat what I like. I try to mix it up. That’s about it. But I know that picture up there is not of a healthy breakfast. For one thing, who wants to drink that much milk?! It’s just propaganda.

With or without the strawberries.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

10 thoughts on “How Not to Stay Healthy With Wheaties

  1. In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, I was a big, athletic adolescent and a breakfast between 700 to 1000 calories was routine. When I had early morning practices, I ate something similar although the milk was leaner and there was less butter (this was when low fat was the fad, I graduated high school just before Atkins really took over). Cereal, juice, milk and toast and jam are bland and vitamin poor but when you have to run wind sprints and you need a breakfast with a lot of calories and food that you can digest easily, you eat a lot of carbs and liquid.

    When I had time to digest my breakfast, I preferred and do prefer meat, eggs, hash and/or hash browns. A fried and/or meaty breakfast is also fine if I am going to be hiking, biking or golfing after breakfast. It is just very hard to have a rich, tasty breakfast and then do high intensity exercises right after eating.

    By the way, early morning practices are bull shit. I said the same when I was a teenager and the older folks wrote it off as teenaged angst and laziness. Now that I am 30 and do not have to do those sunrise practices, I hate them even more because now I understand the sociological implications. They are so obnoxiously paramilitary with an element of fraternity hazing thrown in for good measure. A sunrise bike ride or 5k is glorious but making young men run for three hours in the predawn hours until they throw up is just another example of a sick society.

    As a side note, you have me intrigued about the relationship between General Mills and the milk producers of America. My Econ 1 professor taught us that producers of one complement (he used the example of Smuckers’ Jelly) generally lobby for the other complement to be made as cheap as possible (apparently Smuckers’ lobbies for reducing tariffs and quotas on peanuts so peanut butter will be cheaper). I suspect that General Mills and Kelloggs’ may not be particularly cozy with American milk producers. I may be wrong, may the Dairy Producers’ have some sort of quid pro quo with the major breakfast cereal makers.

    • Back when I was in shape, I did kung fu, about 90 minutes five days a week. And I couldn’t do mornings. I was just too tight from sleeping.

    • As for the dietary stuff, I must admit that I didn’t really follow. Also: I still don’t know what hash is. I remember it from when I was a kid. Nasty stuff. Very much what they like to eat in Scotland, as in, “I think most Scottish cuisine is based on a dare.”

      I didn’t find direct links. But it is like Philip Morris and tobacco growers. But also: notice how the amount of milk in a “serving” of cereal is ridiculously small so as to make it seem healthier. I don’t think this is a coincidence. But I’m a cynical guy.

    • Yes — both ROTC and military academies use morning exercise to turn cadets into tired drones, recipient for indoctrination.

      I got out of PT (physical training) in military school to take Remedial Swimming courses (I’m the worst swimmer in the world!) First thing in the morning, in winter, in a pool they didn’t heat at night. The coach had little charts on hypothermia he would use to determine when to get us out of the water for a little break — then back in! It was so horrible . . .

      • That’s amazing! “And I thought my mom was bad because she wouldn’t let me watch ‘Space Ghost.'”

  2. I was always puzzled as a kid by that bizarre food layout that was endemic in every breakfast cereal ad. Even then, I knew that drinking an entire glass of orange *and* entire glass of milk was a terrible idea, not to mention the added milk that goes into to your cereal. Ugh. I have a stomachache just thinking about it. I find it impossible to eat until I’ve been up for at least two hours, and then, since I’ve started working at the hospital, it’s 2 turkey sausages and one single boiled egg almost every morning, sometimes with a single serving slice of Tillamook cheddar cheese if I’m really hungry. Mornings, I do best with nothing but protein. I do love hash browns, though–they just make me feel sort of sluggish so I stopped eating them.

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