I stopped at the grocery store recently with the Kiddo to pick up a few things. He was in a hurry to get home and play and wanted to know what all we needed. I rattled off a couple items and explained they were for some freezer meals I was making for a friend. My friend’s wife was experiencing some health issues, so having some ready-made meals would be a big help to him. Having the big, soft heart that he does, the Kiddo immediately suggested that we should pick them up some cookies, too, and suggested some “healthy” cookies that his mom packs in his lunch. He led me down the snack aisle to a selection of cookies under the label “WhoNu,” all branded as “nutrition rich.” I added them to the cart and we went on our merry way.
The next day I learned my friend was going out of town for several weeks, so I wouldn’t be able to deliver the goodies as planned. With a sweet tooth and a box of “nutritious” cookies in front of me, I checked out the nutritional info to see how many I could eat without blowing my daily calorie goal. To my surprise, I found a mere three cookies would add 150 calories to my day. Hmmm….WhoNu 150 calories for three very small cookies was considered nutritious?
Let’s make a comparison. WhoNu’s Soft & Chewy cookies are 150 calories for three cookies. Keebler’s Chips Deluxe Soft & Chewy cookies, which are very similar in taste and appearance, are 140 calories for two cookies, but their cookies are larger–31 grams for two cookies versus 36 grams for three cookies. To make an apples to apples comparison, WhoNu’s cookies have about 4.2 calories per gram, while Keebler’s version has 4.5 calories per gram. Hardly enough of a difference to fairly label WhoNu’s cookies as “healthy.”
And there’s the kicker. WhoNu’s marketing claims are very carefully worded. They don’t claim to healthy, low-fat or low-calorie. They say they’re “nutrition rich” and add claims of having “as much vitamin C as a cup of blueberries” and “as much iron as a cup of spinach.” The trick is, they don’t contain blueberries, or spinach, or any foods that would contain those nutrients naturally. They contain all the same “empty calorie” ingredients that regular cookies do–the same “empty calories” that the WhoNu website itself claims its product was created to avert. The difference? The cookies are “fortified” with vitamins and minerals. What does that really mean? If you feed WhoNu cookies to your kids, you’re basically giving them cookies plus a multivitamin.
That doesn’t make these cookies inherently bad–they’re just being marketed as something they aren’t. If your kids are already taking a multivitamin, then what’s the point of giving them cookies with an extra multivitamin crushed up and mixed in? Cookies should be looked as a treat–something that you can have once in awhile, in moderation, but not all the time, because too much sugar and fat aren’t good for you. These cookies don’t do anything to reduce the fat and calories, nor do they even use more natural ingredients (there are plenty of chemical names I couldn’t pronounce on the ingredients list).
At the same time, they’re giving a false impression that they are healthy. That’s where the danger is–if you believe these cookies are “good for you,” you are likely to eat more, or let your child eat more, than you would if you were eating “regular” cookies, with essentially the same amount of fat and sugar, minus the multivitamin. If you’re going to let your child have a treat in the form of a cookie, then pick out the brand of cookie you/your child truly like best, and don’t grab the faker WhoNu cookies on the pretext that they are somehow “less bad for you,” because they aren’t.
If you want to have a healthier treat your child can enjoy without worrying about empty calories and high fructose corn syrup, I suggest thinking outside the cookie box and getting into the kitchen. Stay tuned, because in an upcoming post, I’ll share some simple, kid-pleasing energy bars you can make at home that will satisfy a sweet-tooth and provide real nutrition.