Consumer Reports, an independent and non-profit organization, maintains its praiseworthy integrity by paying for all the products it rates, and by not accepting paid advertising or even test samples from manufacturers. Moreover, Consumer Reports does not allow its name or content to be used for any promotional purposes. In contrast, with the overwhelming marketing, promotion and advertising of processed foods, consumers are often misled, if not intentionally deceived.
A few years ago, we spotlighted the November 2017 Eat Smarter, Eat Healthier cover story in Consumer Reports’ monthly magazine which provided clarity about conflicting nutrition news concerning sugar, salt, fat and gluten. In addition to its monthly magazine, Consumer Reports publishes a monthly newsletter On Health, The Truth About What’s Good for You.
In the May 2023 issue of the On Health newsletter, an article on Foods That Really Keep You Healthy focused on understanding what labels mean when grocery shopping. Providing guidance on “Nutrition Know-How,” this article first addresses a consumer’s desire to “Scale Back on Added Sugars” and focuses on two food labels to look for: “No Added Sugars” and “Sugar Free.” The distinction between these two labels is important and not easily understood by many consumers.
“No Added Sugars” means no sugar of any kind was added during processing, including cane sugar, honey or fruit juice concentrate, and I would add maple syrup, a sweetener that I often choose to use instead of cane sugar in dessert recipes. (But a quarter cup of maple syrup, unlike sugar, supplies 62 percent of your daily riboflavin requirement, about 9 percent of calcium, 8 percent of zinc, and 5 percent of potassium and less maple syrup than sugar is required to sweeten a recipe.) Nonetheless, I cannot disagree with the advice of Consumer Reports that keeping your intake of added sugars low is more important than the type of added sugars you eat.
The “Sugar Free” label is a much more severe limitation on the consumption of sugar. It means “the food has less than 0.5 grams of total sugars, (added and natural sugars) per serving. For example, a tomato sauce could be labeled “no added sugars” but not “sugar free” because tomatoes naturally contain sugar!
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends women have no more than 25 grams (six teaspoons) of added sugars a day; men, no more than 36 grams (9 teaspoons). And AHA recommends children and teens consume less than 25 grams (six teaspoons) of added sugar per day.
Most thoughtful consumers realize that the breakfast cereal aisle in conventional supermarkets is a danger zone for children. The colorful and aggressive marketing of sugary breakfast cereals is so discouraging and unlikely to ever be sufficiently regulated in light of “free speech” rights of industrial food manufacturers, whose profit-making always seems to outweigh other values. For example, Quaker Oats Company (a Division of PepsiCo since 2021) has a current marketing campaign which “celebrates” the 60th birthday of Cap’n Crunch. It’s an extraordinary and colorful marketing/advertising campaign that is discouraging for a consumer searching for “Foods That Really Keep You Healthy.”
To respond with a simple recipe for “Overnight Oatmeal” seems slight in contrast. Nonetheless, Brittany Mullins, a holistic nutritionist has created an inspiring website Eating Bird Food, which provides a slew of healthy recipes including Easy Basic Overnight Oats. With warmer temperatures ahead, when heating up the stovetop for a bowl of hot oatmeal (like my go-to raspberry oatmeal made with steel-cut oats) is not too appealing, this is a handy recipe for a nutritional and delicious breakfast.
In particular, what is very special about Mullins’ recipe for overnight oats (which she writes “have held a special place in my heart since I discovered them in 2009”) is how her purpose for sharing her “basic overnight oats” recipe is rooted in her desire “to answer all your overnight oats questions.” In the course of doing so, she notes how she has “experimented” with “many different flavors” over the years.
This is my first “experiment” with making overnight oatmeal, and I decided to use the “flavors” of blueberries, cinnamon, peanut butter, and the tanginess of kefir milk. I also decided to top the overnight oatmeal with walnuts, slices of banana and a tablespoon of maple syrup. (Yes, some added sugar but not too much!)
Overnight Oats With Blueberries (makes two large servings)
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup kefir milk (though any kind of milk can be used)
1/2 cup fresh (or frozen) blueberries
2 tbsp peanut butter
1 tsp cinnamon
My home-town Honest Weight Food Co-op in Albany, NY, with its 1,000 bins of bulk foods, offers a variety of organic rolled oats including my choice of thick-cut. Peanut butter, made with freshly ground organic peanuts from the co-op, is a staple in my pantry and used in this recipe. In the past I’ve often spotlighted Trader Joe’s frozen Wild Boreal Blueberries from Quebec (at an unbeatable price of $2.49 per pound), which I used to make the overnight oats.
1. Using two jars with tight fitting lids, evenly divide the above ingredients in the jars. (I used two peanut butter jars.)
2. Screw the top on each jar tightly and shake vigorously. (If prefer, stir vigorously and recap the jars.)
3, Refrigerate overnight.
In the morning, I topped the overnight oats with slices of banana, walnuts, and sweetened with a tbsp of maple syrup.
(Frank W. Barrie, 4/28/23)