Welcoming Back the Carbs, Carefully

"We responsibly added the whole grain to our cereals at a minimum of half a serving," said nutritionist Susan Crockett, director of the Bell Institute at General Mills.

Many of the dozen nutritionists we consulted for this story applauded the campaign and called it a step in the right direction. But some of those same experts also said the nutritional benefits of the whole grains in cereals like Trix are undercut by a load of sugar.

Crockett, the General Mills nutritionist, said the brand's labeling is not misleading because the cereal does contain half a serving of whole grain, as defined by the government.

"We feel that we advertised and communicated with consumers in a clear, responsible and nonmisleading way. We stepped up to this project with total integrity," said Crockett. "We feel fine about the banner of whole grain on our presweetened cereals. It is truthful and non-misleading."

Katz has a different opinion: "This is candy basically, and yeah, there's a little bit of whole grain in here, but there's a lot of whole-grain lettering on the front of the package."

Tips for Finding the Whole Grains

So how can General Mills get away with marketing whole grains in a sugar cereal the same way it does a healthy one?

The new FDA guidelines only suggest that food manufacturers tell you the amount of whole grains you're getting. Until those recommendations are approved, cutting through the confusion takes a lot of work.

When you're shopping, Katz recommends that you look for the word "whole" in the first spot on the ingredient list. "The ingredients on food products are listed in order of abundance," he said.

He also said it's critical that you look for whole-wheat flour.

"The difference between wheat flour and whole-wheat flour is like the difference between an airplane with and without wings. You know a whole airplane's a whole lot better," said Katz.

And, he said, check out the amount of fiber on the facts panel.

"If you don't see two or more grams of fiber per 100 calories … whatever it says on the front about whole grain you can forget about it. It's just a token," said Katz.

In the end, no matter what you're buying, you should check the fine print. It's still the best place to find the whole-grain truth.

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