If you are a General Mills fan, check out my adventures behind the scenes and discover some Cheerios and Betty Crocker Tidbits revealed!
I’ve written many times before how I love cereal and always have. Recently I was invited on a registered dietitian media tour called “Share and Inspire” at the General Mills headquarters in Minneapolis, Minnesota. A child’s dreams realized! I actually got to watch them make Cinnamon Toast Crunch and learned all about how Cheerios become, well, Cheerios. I won’t tell, the secret is safe with me.
Over 2 ½ days, I learned so much about a company that I already admire and regularly support by purchasing so many of their items for my family’s weekly meals. While we usually think of General Mills as the creators of Cheerios, there are so many brands in their family of products that I’m sure you enjoy. Just to name a few: Betty Crocker, Gold Medal, Haagen-Dazs, Annie’s, Larabar, Yoplait, Cascadian Farms, Old El Paso, Progresso, Chex, Bisquick, Pillsbury and Nature Valley. There’s more, it would take a while….
Throughout our amazing journey, we were hosted by the team at the Bell Institute of Health and Nutrition. If you are unfamiliar:
“The global Bell Institute of Health and Nutrition is comprised of passionate doctorate and master-level scientists and registered dietitians with varied backgrounds – ranging from nutrition science to public health to food science to microbiology and more! Our mission is to be the source of health, wellness and nutrition expertise that creates value and growth for General Mills. We believe food should make us better, so we work hard to make food people love, while improving the nutrition of our products”
As we enjoyed a beautiful and scrumptious breakfast in the Better Crocker Portrait Conference Room, we were treated to lots of fascinating info about General Mills and their mission.
There is SOOOOO much to share that I’m going to keep it simple with some Cheerios and Betty Crocker Tidbits Revealed.
-Many people don’t know that Betty Crocker is not a real person. “At the height of her popularity, Betty Crocker received 5,000 fan letters a day and many proposals of marriage.” There are many beautiful portraits throughout General Mills headquarters of what artists pictured her to look like, though she does not actually exist.
-The #1 selling cereal at General Mills is Honey Nut Cheerios.
-Cereal is consumed by 90% of US households and Cheerios in some form is found in about 50% of households.
-9 out of 10 Americans don’t get their recommended daily amount of whole grains in their diet- General Mills now offers 20 cereals with at least 8 grams of whole grains per serving, and whole grain is the 1st ingredient in all Big G cereals.
-General Mills offers 38 cereals with 9 grams of sugar or less per labeled serving and has reduced sugar by at least 10% in more than 250 products.
COMMENTARY: It’s my opinion, and that of many RDNs, that the nutritional benefits to kids and adults of consuming cereal with whole grains, vitamins and minerals is outweighed by the small amount of sugar they may contain. And, if it’s a concern to you, stick with the lower sugar ones like Cheerios with only 1g per serving. Or, if your kids need some sweetness, mix plain Cheerios ½ and ½ with Honey Nut Cheerios or another favorite to cut the total sugar by 50%.
-77% of the Big G cereal portfolio contains no artificial flavors or colors from artificial sources, and they are committed to reaching 100 percent by the end of 2017.
-There is a mission to increase the sustainability of ingredients, collaborate to improve global water stewardship, advance socially responsible supply chains and improve the environmental performance of their operations. The coolest part of that to me is the commitment by Honey Nut Cheerios to protect the bees. The brand announced that by the end of 2020, farms that Honey Nut Cheerios sources oats from will house about 3,300 total acres of dedicated pollinator habitat on 60,000 acres of land. That’s the equivalent of 3000 football fields just for the bees! Sweet!
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After a morning of education, it was time to watch the masters at work in the food photography studio. As a food blogger, this was heaven. We watched and learned tips and tricks to improve our food photos. Look at all those tools to style a perfect photo. So cool!
While I LOVE learning about the quality and production of food. I love cooking it even more!
We were all blown away by the gorgeous Betty Crocker Kitchen. As we came upon it from above, we peered through the glass and stared in awe at the beautiful facility below. We all giggled as we realized that the Honey Nut Cheerios and Lucky Charms mascots were waiting for us 🙂
I peered at our agenda for the day and saw “Playing Outside the Cereal Box” Cooking Competition.
What? Are we actually going to cook in the Betty Crocker kitchen? Um, sign me up!!
1. We were given a guideline recipe for waffles
2. Told that we had to include the cereal or cereals of our choice in the batter depending on the flavor we were trying to achieve.
3. Given a time limit to prepare the waffles, top them with whatever we wanted. (And I mean WHATEVER we wanted. What a variety!!)
4. Choose how to plate it with all accessories like placemats, forks, napkins, etc and PHOTOGRAPH the finished product.
5. Give your creation a name and make any appropriate health claims.
OK, so that wasn’t intimidating at all, gulp!
If you watch the show Chopped on the Food Network, that’s what was spinning in my head.
So, I decided to go with a savory waffle and added Cheerios, Kix and Fiber One into the batter for extra fiber and texture, not a lot of sweetness.
The finished product was a Spicy Bacon Fiber Fiesta Waffle topped with avocado, tomatoes, Sriracha and crumbled bacon. (I realized later that I should have added some lime juice and a little cilantro) I didn’t win, but that was seriously one of the most fun experiences I’ve ever had as a dietitian. The creations served by my fellow RD competitors were crazy delicious!
I could really go on for many pages about the wonderful company, fantastic dinners, incredible colleagues and overall experience at Share and Inspire. I thank General Mills for recognizing registered dietitians as experts in communicating food and nutrition information. Also, a huge thank you to Bonnie Taub-Dix, Victoria Shanta Retelny, Rosanne Rust, Liz Weiss, Keith Ayoob and Leslie Bonci for being awesome at everything they do and making this trip such a special experience.
Disclosure: This trip was sponsored by General Mills and they covered my travel and lodging expenses. I was not compensated for my time and I was not asked to write this blog post. All opinions are my own.
Also, some of the photos in this post were taken by the wonderful photographer at General Mills, and I thank them for sharing with us!