Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Food Showdown: Oatmeal To Go

You can find the definition of what the purpose of a Food Showdown blog is on my definitions page.  Today is a little bit different.  Usually, I do packaged products you can buy at the grocery store (I have a whole line of these blogs on SparkPeople.com already).  This time, it is a fast food purchase that caught my eye.

I decided this morning, out of laziness and wanting to get some coffee (stopped by creamer to cut back on coffee consumption to make it inconvenient), that I would go to McDonald's for coffee.  I had also wanted to try their new oatmeal, somewhat knowing it would probably be terrible, but really wanting to try it and let my readers know how it was.  Off I went.  Well, I wrote what I thought here and it started a bit of a flurry of comments and thoughts.  I decided I should do an FS blog on the various oatmeal available as to-go.  I researched 4 restaurants but I'm sure there are many others that also do oatmeal (like Cosi, Tim Horton, and Jamba Juice but we don't have those here).   Also, to make it fair, I will assume that you would have gotten the same toppings at each place, if available.  So here we go!

McDonald's Fruit & Maple Oatmeal
Oatmeal (Whole grain rolled oats, brown sugar, food starch-modified, salt, natural flavor (plant source), barley malt extract, caramel color.), Diced Apples (Apples, calcium ascorbate (a blend of calcium and vitamin C to maintain freshness and color).), Cranberry Raisin Blend (Dried sweetened cranberries (sugar, cranberries), California raisins, golden raisins, sunflower oil, sulfur dioxide (preservative).), Light Cream (Milk, cream, sodium phosphate, datem, sodium stearoyl lactylate, sodium citrate, carrageenan.)

Starbucks "The Perfect Oatmeal"
Oatmeal (whole-grain rolled oats (with oat bran), oat flour, calcium carbonate, salt, guar gum, caramel color, reduced iron, vitamin a palmitate, niacinamide, pyridoxine hydrochloride, riboflavin, thiamine mononitrate, folic acid.), Dried Fruit (dried cranberries (cranberries, sugar, sunflower oil), raisins (raisins [contain sulfites]), dried blueberries (blueberries, sugar, sunflower oil), dried cherries (cherries, sugar, sunflower oil).), Brown Sugar

Au Bon Pan Oatmeal
Water, 100% Natural Rolled Oats, Apples, Honey, Sugar, Cinnamon, Canola Oil.

*  Notice this one does not have brown sugar but it is sweetened so we'll let that one go.  It is also missing the dried fruit but it does have apples.  Overall, its close enough to me to be comparable.

I think there is a clear winner here.  They are all about the same in calories.  Fat is all over the place but nothing super high.  I am loving Au Bon Pan for such low sodium although 150mg won't kill me.  Au Bon Pan even managed to pack in an extra 2g of fiber!  Probably from the apples but no matter how they did it, its a good thing.  Also, the sugar is completely cut in half at Au Bon Pan!  And they killed on the protein too!  Overall, just by nutrition, Au Bon Pan is your best bet (oh how I love this place but there isn't one anywhere near me.  I miss NYC!  One on every block!)

Let's talk about the ingredients lists...  Do we even need to though?  Just the fact that the list wrapped around the picture should say it all for McDonald's.  Modified Food Starch?  Natural Flavors?  Caramel color???  Are those things really necessary?  And just look at the light cream!  Carrageenan is supposedly all natural but I'm always wary (usually means the food is highly processed).  The MSDS sheet doesn't have much on Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate.  Oooh this is an interesting one.  Sodium Phosphate is "typically used to empty the colon" in the medical world for things like colonoscopies.  Ha!  Also, if you click on the link, there is a huge warning about how it can cause permanent kidney damage in some people.  Sounds like a good thing to add to my food.  Some might argue that in small amounts, it is ok, but I don't want it in any amounts.  Ok, enough picking on McDonald's.

Starbucks!  Despite having a crazy long ingredients list, its really not that bad.  It is mostly vitamins in the oatmeal.  The only thing that I would be concerned about here is that it has a lot of sugar.  Maybe if you left out the brown sugar (taking out 50 calories and 13g of sugar), then it wouldn't be so bad!  I can also say that the Starbucks serving is significantly larger than the McDonald's serving of oatmeal so you are getting a more filling breakfast at Starbucks for the same amount of calories.  Expect a sugar crash from the McDonald's (because its super sweet to the taste too!).

Au Bon Pan again though has slaughtered the competition.  Look at that ingredient list!  I can make that at home!  Making oatmeal at home is the most logical choice here but that's not what the FS blogs are about.  There might be some days when you don't have even 2 minutes to make something at home.  Anyway, the ingredients list is so simple, I love it.  I'm praying for the day they build an Au Bon Pan nearby!

Clear Winner!  Au Bon Pan!

Side Note:  Neat blog I stumbled on and used a picture from too.  Has a post about the oatmeal but based completely on tasting them :)


TonyaBren said...

Oh how I wish we had an Au Bon Pain in our area!

Anonymous said...

I dont have a au bon pain here either. Bummer
It is really interesting to see the big difference though, i guess its better than a big mac- right? haha

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