Nutella Truck’s Breakfast Tour Promotes a Not So Healthy Breakfast

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Nutella for breakfast? What kind of nutty idea is that?

Well a Nutella truck is crisscrossing the country through December 15, dishing out samples of the chocolate hazelnut spread as part of a twelve-city “breakfast tour.” Nutella USA says the spread contains no artificial flavors or preservatives, just a “wholesome” combination of hazelnuts, sugar skim milk, and “a hint of cocoa.”

Healthland finds the road trip surprising, especially after Ferrero, the company that makes the Italian hazelnut spread, settled a $3 million false advertising lawsuit in April; a California mom sued Ferrero in February 2011 for spreading the idea, through TV ads and labeling, that Nutella was a balanced, nutritious breakfast.

Nutella still maintains that the spread, “when used in moderation with complementary foods,” can be part of a balanced breakfast and a way to encourage kids to eat heart-healthy whole grains. For instance, a photo on the company’s Facebook page shows an English muffin with a smear of Nutella and strawberries on top. On the one hand, Nutella might have a point; eating dessert with breakfast actually helped low-calorie dieters in a Tel Aviv University study lose weight by keeping them satisfied, Healthland reported in June.

That being said, 1 serving (2 tablespoons) of Nutella contains 200 calories, 11g of a fat — 3.5g of which is saturated fat — and 21g of sugar, so Healthland certainly would not recommend eating something so high in fat and sugar for breakfast every day. Nutella is one of the many foods that, at first glance, looks like it contains just a few simple ingredients, but can actually pack on the pounds if not consumed sparingly.

As the food movement grows, corporations are increasingly trying to make their foods seem as healthy as possible. And the lack of an FDA guideline for the use of the word “natural” on food labels means that it is easy for companies to stretch the truth. This summer, for instance, two California mothers sued General Mills for marketing its Nature Valley granola products as “natural,” when the snacks actually contained three ingredients that are not natural, like sweeteners high fructose corn syrup, high maltose corn syrup, and maltodextrin, according to a July 26th New York Times article.

So if the Nutella truck shows up near you, treat the free sample as a dessert. But don’t call it breakfast.