Monday, November 6, 2017

Cereal Review: French Toast Crunch


As I write this, I'm 99% positive that Cinnamon Toast Crunch is my favorite breakfast cereal. It ages with me well, offering a good whole grain base that's lightly sweetened and has a deliciously-balanced cinnamon and sugar coating that tastes great, even if it does leave a slimy film in my mouth like I've been licking frogs again. So when I finally decided to try its sister cereal, French Toast Crunch, it was with some hesitation (it looks like a big departure from CTC), but also a little bit of nervous excitement. 

French Toast Crunch was originally introduced back in 1995 by the folks at General Mills and was around until 2006, when it was pulled from American store shelves (but remained available in Canada). But since everything old is new again, the folks at General Mills dusted off the idea for America in 2015, relaunching it nationwide where it still occupies valuable shelf space as of this writing. Before this review, I'd never tried French Toast Crunch. To be perfectly honest with you, I don't remember seeing it on the shelves before the 2015 revival at all. With mounting curiosity and an eager 11-year-old in tow, I pulled the trigger and bought a box. 
The first two ingredients in French Toast Crunch are corn and sugar. The next two ingredients AFTER sugar are corn meal and corn syrup. That's three of the four main ingredients being derived from corn. I'm picturing a commercial where the camera flies over endless Iowa corn fields while an American flag waves in the background. The heavy corn-content of this cereal is a big departure from actual french toast, which is made from whole foods like bread and eggs, but I understand that they can't make a breakfast cereal out of bread and eggs. It would spoil quickly, and the cereal aisle would smell like the elephant exhibit at the zoo. Still, I'm not wild about a cereal with the main ingredients of corn and sugar being marketed as a part of a well-balanced breakfast. Like most GM cereals, the box itself boasts a bunch of pseudo-healthy blurbs so parents won't feel so bad about sliding a bowl of sugar-coated corn across the table to their kids. "No high fructose corn syrup!" "No colors from artificial sources!" "No artificial flavors!" No, this is 100% American corn, and the sugars used are the finest corn syrup available, just not of the "high fructose" variety. So I guess they used LOW fructose corn syrup?
Despite my skepticism and guilt over shoveling what amounts to corn-sweetened corn into my face, this stuff is actually really, really good. The cereal itself looks like tiny pieces of white toast, meaning that an average bowl probably consists of well over a hundred tiny toast pieces. Fun fact: General Mills used the same little pieces of toast in their 2016 cereal debut of "Tiny Toast," which was available in strawberry and blueberry flavor. They abandoned that marketing in the summer of 2017, absorbing both flavors into their "Toast Crunch" line. Presumably people will buy "Toast Crunch" but not "Tiny Toast." You gotta have that crunch. #TheMoreYouKnow.

Each little rounded toast square packs the flavor of actual french toast, complete with vague egg-like flavor and real maple syrup taste. The box boats "Bursting with cinnamon and syrup taste" and they weren't joking. Whoever was in charge of formulating this cereal really did knock it out of the park with the flavors of this stuff. This means that a bowl of French Toast Crunch cereal packs all the punch of real french toast, but without all the complex carbohydrates and proteins that your body can use for workout fuel and brain food. 

The taste is great, the cereal itself is fun, and the box is inviting and celebratory. These are all the hallmarks of a classic cereal, and it's one that I've enjoyed enough that I'm likely to purchase again in the future. However, given that this is a corn-farmer's bounty and that there is very little actual nutrition here (sometimes adulting sucks), I can only recommend a 110-calorie bowl of French Toast Crunch as a snack or enjoyed with something more filling. The old cereal commercial fine print still applies: PART of a well-balanced breakfast. Therefore, it would be smart to pair this cereal with something substantial for your breakfast, like a scoop of peanut butter or a protein shake. Maybe even a T-bone or a grilled chicken breast. Failure to do so could lead to a carb crash.
I'm giving French Toast Crunch a pass, but with the caveat that it has even less nutritional value than something like Lucky Charms, which starts from whole oats and has two whole grams of protein, which is double what you'll find in French Toast Crunch. Even my beloved Cinnamon Toast Crunch starts with whole wheat. This stuff is literally a bowl of vitamin-fortified empty calories. Your taste buds will thank you, but the headache and sluggishness that arrive an hour after eating this cereal will not. Eat up...but please enjoy responsibly. 

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