Smart Swaps: Oatmeal Cups

During the spring and summer, I love a smoothie for breakfast but when cooler weather hits, I long for a warm cup of oatmeal.

For this (long overdue) smart swap, I’m sharing with you the better-for -you oatmeal cup.

I grew up eating Quakers quick-cooking oatmeal, and over the years they have expanded their line from oatmeal to granola to snack bars. I used to scoop out of the container but when oatmeal cups were introduced.. boy was I happy. They were so convenient and so easy!

I never thought twice about Quaker besides the added sugar in some of its oatmeal. However, you may want to take a look at the ingredient list for this Quaker Instant Oatmeal Cup….


smart swap oatmeal

Yup, you saw right. Caramel color. It’s the same stuff that is added into soda and colas to make it look brown.

So what is the big deal?  The problem is that some types of caramel color contain a potentially carcinogenic chemical called 4-methylimidazole (4-MeI). You cannot tell if the caramel color you are consuming contains ammonia (which contains 4-Mel) because companies can use “caramel color” without specifying the type they are using.

And why should we be concerned? Dr. Rangan said it well:

“There’s no reason why consumers should be exposed to an avoidable and unnecessary risk that can stem from coloring food brown.”

– Urvashi Rangan, Ph.D., toxicologist and executive director of Consumer Reports’ Food Safety & Sustainability Center

What is so bad about caramel color? Well first off, the Center for Science in the Public Interest advises the public to AVOID caramel color

From their website is the following….

“Caramel coloring, when produced with ammonia, contains contaminants, 2-methylimidazole and4-methylimidazole. In 2007, studies by the U.S. National Toxicology Program found that those two contaminants cause cancer in male and female mice and possibly in female rats. In 2011, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a division of the World Health Organization, concluded that 2- and 4-methylimidazole are ‘possibly carcinogenic to humans.‘ ”

Yea, so bottom line…we don’t want to be consuming this stuff at all. And who knew you would find it in oatmeal? Hmmmm….

A cleaner and also a gluten-free option would be Straw Propeller’s Maple Oats, made with simple ingredients. Aside from being caramel color free, it is also lower in sugar and sodium than Quakers.

Have you had oatmeal cups? Which ones are your favorite? What are your go-to breakfasts for cooler mornings?

Happy Oatmeal Mornings,



3 thoughts on “Smart Swaps: Oatmeal Cups

  1. ritaannette08 says:

    I love this idea! Do you mind if I steal your idea and feature a similar type of post on my blog? I’ve been trying to come up with more ways to talk about healthy eating without long, lengthy posts and this is such a good way to do it!


    • Joanna Li RD says:

      haha thanks!! love your blog and sure maybe not smart swaps but anything else sounds great! look forward to checking your posts out 🙂


  2. danicushnc says:

    Cool! So often I look at nutrition facts and think, “That’s not so bad.” It’s really a different story when you compare them! Look at how much more protein & fiber the 2nd one has. I’ve never heard of that brand, but I’ll be looking now!


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