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I was on Twitter last night checking in when I noticed an interesting hashtag: #WhoNu. For those who are uninformed: WhoNu cookies are being billed as “nutrition rich cookies.” They have, according to the manufacturer:

  • as much Vitamin C as cup of blueberries
  • as much iron as a cup of spinach
  • as much calcium and Vitamin D as a glass of milk
  • as much Vitamin A as an 8 ounce glass of tomato juice
  • as much fiber as a bowl of oatmeal
  • as much Vitamin E as two glasses of carrot juice
  • as much Vitamin B-12 as a cup of cottage cheese and fruit

Wow, I thought, a cookie that is actually healthy is probably something I would want to buy! I had to see the list of ingredients, though, since it sounded too good to be true. Unfortunately, it was. Every one of the four varieties (Chocolate, Crispy, Soft & Chewy, and Vanilla) contains artificial flavors, hydrogenated oils, and chemicals like monocalcium phosphate, monoglycerides, and polydextrose. (Polydextrose, according to Wikipedia, is “an indigestable synthetic polymer of glucose.” Ugh.) The Soft & Chewy version lists high fructose corn syrup as its third ingredient. Have a look at the ingredients yourself.

The Twitter party, which was HUGE and well-attended, was a busy one, but the conversation didn’t reflect the fact that these cookies are basically plain old cookies that contain some not-so-great ingredients — with some added vitamins thrown in. Instead, the hosts played up a health and nutrition angle. Most of the questions, in fact, were directly related to nutrition such as: What is your best tip for ensuring your child has a nutrition-rich diet? Do you worry your athlete is not getting enough vitamins and minerals in their diet? How do you celebrate the end of a (sports) season? What does your athlete eat after a game? What type of food would you take to your child’s game or a team party? Have you ever struggled with being asked to be the Team Snack Mom?

Attendee comments during the two-hour Twitter party were all over the place, but most were very enthusiastic. One attendee/host suggested dunking WhoNus into milk to get a “double” vitamin boost. (“When you dunk a Whonu in milk its like getting double the vitimans.”) Another said she likes crumpling up the cookies into Greek yogurt. Yet another said how happy she was that cookies were finally a healthy food. Exact words: “It is nice they are nutritious.” Sigh.

My take away from this is how smart the folks at WhoNu’s parent company Suncore Products are. They are marketing these cookies as part of a healthy, active lifestyle. Moms, who may not have the time or gumption to look at the ingredients, are falling for the hype hook, line, and sinker. And that’s one of the biggest problem I have with these cookies: Parents are being lulled into thinking they are doing something good for their kids when in reality they are simply giving them a highly processed food that just happens to have vitamins in it. Oh, and the fact that all those parents are probably playing up the vitamin angle when giving them to their kids, who will then learn to equate cookies with healthy food. I’d have fewer problems with them if Suncore Products removed all the artificial gunk and high fructose corn syrup. How about you?

This post is how I am participating in this week’s Real Food Wednesday and Fight Back Friday, two awesome blog carnivals dedicated to promoting the use and consumption of — what else? — real food. BTW: If you’re looking for a truly “healthy” cookie, why not bake some yourself? There are some great recipes out there. Try this one or this one or this one.

15 Responses to “WhoNu Cookies: Not What They Seem”

  1. Jason says:

    I got to sample the soft & chewy chocolate chip and the crispy chocolate chip. They took me by surprise in that I thought they would be about the same size as competing ‘non-healthy’ varieties when they are actually much smaller. The Crispy chocolate chip cookie had a decent consistency for a packaged cookie but had very little taste out side of cocoa and a sharp aftertaste. The Soft & Chewy chocolate chip cookie looked and had the consistency of a flat little pat of slightly grainy goo, unfortunately I can’t really explain it any better. The Soft & Chewy also had little taste other than cocoa and a sharp aftertaste.
    I would rate these cookies a 1 out of 5 stars – and I’m giving it 1 star only because this product could give children or adults who have difficulty with getting enough vitamins another way to get additional vitamins they may need.

  2. Melissa says:

    I’ve seen ads for these cookies and wondered about them; thanks for doing the checking and sharing what you found. This seems similar to fortifying sugary breakfast cereals. My family doesn’t stick to a stringent super-healthy diet, but I do want to be able to make informed decisions.

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  4. Nik says:

    Yeah, I was nearly suckered into them. I had a coupon for $1 off. They were in the “health food” section at my super market. I was disgusted when I read the ingredients. Clearly, they are not counting on people reading the labels. Or understanding them.

  5. Debbie T says:

    I’m glad word is slowly getting out about their outrageous marketing claims. I wrote about them in July and continue to be shocked at how gullible consumers are.

    I didn’t hear about their Twitter “party” – I have a hard enough time reading their facebook page. My favorite comment was from a mother “These are so great! I can finally get my son to eat a full serving of veggies!”

    Can you imagine?? They have convinced her that she is feeding her child vegetables with this cookie.

  6. Kelly K says:

    Well, now I feel like an idiot. I bought the Oreo looking ones and my kids and I thought they were delicious and tasted just like Oreos and I felt like I was feeding my kids a healthy-esque food. Nuts. Well, I suppose they are no worse than Oreos, right? But, definitely not healthy.

  7. Barb says:

    I had a coupon, so I tried them. They taste just as bad as every other over-processed packaged cookie out there. I would not buy them again.

  8. Nesweets says:

    Wow. I knew something was not right about those cookies. I finally decided to google and I learned quite a bit. Well this was my first and last time purchasing these cookies. O well, I’d rather have my actual oatmeal, spinach, blueberry, milk, tomato juice, carrot juice, fruit and cottage cheese.

  9. Rebecca says:

    Okay, so I have an addiction to Oreo cookies. I LOVE Them. I am not big on purchasing ready made sweets, but I love Oreo’s. In the last couple years I’ve been trying to cut out High fructose Corn Syrup and have been appalled by how many products contain it. I saw these the other day and figure that they are not as bad as Oreos and the fact that they cost a bit more makes me buy fewer. I agree they should not replace vegetables. These actually taste closer to Oreo cookies than any other sandwich cookie I’ve tried. I’m not going to eat them like crazy because they are “healthy” but I’d rather have them than Oreo’s.

  10. Jonathan says:

    You have to look at these cookies compared to what they would be replacing in your diet. They are not expecting the person who makes all natural granola bars at home to start buying WhuNu cookies instead, rather they are going after the person who is buying Chips Ahoy and would like something a little healthier. This cookie is not advertised as “All-Natural” or “Organic” and shouldn’t be treated as such. That being said, it does have a lot more nutrition than the Nabisco alternative. If you don’t want any processed food in your diet, don’t buy this product, but if you want a slightly better alternative when buying grocery store cookies, go for it.

  11. zorkbox says:

    Come on, they’re not broccoli, but they’re better than pure Oreo. Small steps, folks.

  12. Nick says:

    I agree with Rebecca! I don’t think the cookies are meant to be the “end-all be-all” of healthy snacks, but rather are supplement for Oreo’s and Chips Ahoy that you would be buying anyways.

  13. Mary says:

    I looked at the listed ingredience in ‘WhoNu’ and I thought it was a nutritional cookie. I bought them and found out that they made me feel ill. The fructose and the salt content are too high. I know 6% sodium is in the normal range for any food, but I can only tolerate 3% sodium.

  14. Juliet says:

    I bought these today for my son, who is 6 years old and so ridiculously picky that I believe he has an eating disorder. He hasn’t had a single vegetable since he was 1 year old, eating jarred baby food. (Trust me, I’ve tried. My 4 year old daughter eats anything and everything with no complaints.) Or fruit. Or nuts. Very, very little meat. Sigh. It’s exhausting. I’m just hoping to get his calorie intake above the 800 he currently eats.

    I’m certainly not playing up the healthy angle, as there is no way on earth I would ever tell him, because he’d instantly not eat them ever again. But if I can give him three cookies and get a tiny bit of nutrition into him, vs. three Chips Ahoy-type cookies (his normal favorite…the crispy WhoNu cookies look just like Chips Ahoy) I’m happy. I will treat them just like any other dessert in the house, and they will be limited.

    I’m glad to have this information, though. It sucks that they have bad things in them. Polydextrose sounds revolting. The flavor I bought has corn syrup, but no HFCS.

    Anyway, I guess I see them as a cookie, although a slightly more healthy cookie than normal. If the choice is Chips Ahoy vs. WhoNu, I guess WhoNu are better. (Although the name is ridiculously stupid.)

  15. kitty says:

    Why not just make one’s own cookies? There are amazing recipes for cookies with beets that are fuschia-colored!! Also you could play up a zuchinni bread recipe into a cookie I’d bet, and they’d be really yummy. That could also be a way to get kids to open up to eating more veggies. And you know what is in them– there are many substitutes for the bad stuff, such as honey for sugar…. & No crazy chemicals at all!

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