Are Packaged Rice Krispie Treats Healthy (Nutrition Pros and Cons)?
Are you wondering whether Rice Krispie Treats are healthy or not? Find out the nutrition pros and cons of Rice Krispie Treats, including both the homemade and packaged versions.
Rice Krispie Treat Facts
Rice Krispie Treats are a toasted rice cereal and marshmallow confection found at most grocery stores. The packaged version of it is made by Kellogg’s for people of all ages to enjoy as an on-the-go snack. Some people prefer to make it at home as a party snack or sweet treat.
The Kellogg’s website states that it’s a family favorite and is perfect for school lunches, as an afternoon snack, to nibble on while video gaming, or as a party snack or special treat.
The nutrition label of the packaged version states that Rice Krispie Treats contain ingredients like rice, sugar, salt, flavoring, corn syrup, fructose, vegetable oil, glycerin, dextrose, gelatin, milk, BHT, and more.
The allergen warning on the label states that Rice Krispie Treats contain soy and milk, including a bioengineered food disclosure.
The homemade version of Rice Krispie Treats contains butter, jet-puffed marshmallows, and toasted rice cereal. The nutritional information of the ingredients depends on the brand of marshmallows and rice cereal you use.
Packaged Vs. Homemade Rice Krispie Treat Ingredients
Let’s look closer at some of the main ingredients in both packaged and homemade Rice Krispy Treats and what it means for your health.
Packaged Rice Krispie Treats
As mentioned above, pre-made Rice Krispie Treats contain a long list of different ingredients, many of which are far from healthy or nutritious. One serving contains 9 grams of sugar.
The marketing may try to convince you that it’s made with whole grains and could be a healthy breakfast, but let’s dig a bit deeper.
See my related article, “Is Belvita Healthy?“
Corn syrup is a highly processed ingredient with potential health risks.
Research has revealed that it increases appetite and is more likely to promote obesity than regular sugar. Studies have also shown that corn syrup can contribute to inflammation, diabetes, high triglycerides, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
Corn syrup is a main ingredient of packaged rice crispy treats and is not a good option, especially for those who are concerned about blood-sugar levels and other health concerns like heart disease.
Corn syrup is not considered a natural sweetener (see my list of the healthiest natural sugar).
Gelatin is another ingredients listed in packaged Rice Krispie Treats.
It’s a naturally occurring protein derived from collagen. Animals have it in their bones, skin, and cartilage. It’s essential for healthy joints.
As a food additive, it’s added to desserts, sauces, medications, soups, and candies. It is gluten-free but not vegan because it is an animal by-product.
Gelatin has many health benefits. It can help boost collagen levels and improve elasticity in the skin. Gelatin can help improve digestion and sleep quality and can assist with weight loss. It also contains lysine, which is excellent for bone health.
Ideally, when you consume gelatin products, it should come from pastured animals that were raised on natural feed like grass. It is unclear the sourcing of the gelatin used in Kellogg’s Rice Krispies.
TBHQ and BHA
TBHQ is a food additive that prevents rancidity and extends the shelf life of processed foods. Manufacturers often use TBHQ and BHA together. The two chemicals are closely related – when the body metabolizes BHA, TBHQ forms.
Scientific research has revealed that TBHQ in high quantities has a carcinogenic effect. It may also cause visual disturbances and other health issues. A study concluded that BHA might be responsible for endocrine disruption.
The FDA has placed strict limitations on the quantity of both additives a processed product may contain. As a consumer, it is up to you to choose whether to eat products containing them or at least moderate your consumption.
Soy is a plant protein and a pea (legume) family member. It’s a staple of Asian cuisine and popular with people who follow plant-based or vegetarian diets. Despite its popularity, soy is considered a common allergen and can cause digestive upsets.
According to research, soy can alter thyroid function in people with an iodine deficiency, and consuming soy in large amounts during pregnancy could harm the fetus. Like corn, most of the soy produced in the U.S. is genetically modified, which could explain the bioengineered food disclosure on the label.
Learn more about the potential soy protein danger so you can make an informed decision on whether you want to include it in your diet.
Homemade Rice Krispie Treats
Here are some ingredients you would use to make Rice Krispie Treats at home. The recipe for original rice krispies contain puffed rice and healthier ingredients without preservatives.
Toasted Rice Cereal
Depending on the brand, toasted rice breakfast cereal can be a good choice for people with food sensitivities.
Most brands of crispy rice cereal are nut, dairy, soy, and wheat-free. It contains B vitamins, iron, and folate, is low in bad fats, and has zero cholesterol. One ingredient to watch out for is sugar – some brands include more than others.
While marshmallows used to be made from marshmallow root, a plant with many health benefits, modern-day marshmallows are packaged candies. They typically contain sugar, corn syrup, and gelatin.
Depending on your chosen brand, marshmallows are usually extremely high in processed sugar; therefore, they can’t be considered healthy.
Low-sugar and vegan options are available, or you can make them at home. Read my related article on whether marshmallows have dairy or eggs.
In moderation, high-quality grass-fed butter can be healthy if you are not lactose intolerant or allergic to dairy products. It is a good source of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), calcium, and various vitamins.
Butter and ghee (clarified butter) are considered to be healthy fats.
However, butter also contains high levels of saturated fat, and it is an animal product, so it’s not suitable for a vegan diet.
Besides the fortified cereal’s iron, folate, and B vitamins, the packaged version of Rice Krispie Treats has virtually no nutritional value. It also has too much added sugar which can affect blood sugar.
The homemade version is significantly less unhealthy. It also contains iron and B vitamins derived from the cereal but doesn’t contain all the additives and potentially harmful ingredients because it’s much “cleaner.”
Packaged Rice Krispie Treats are highly processed and contain harmful ingredients like corn syrup, fructose, vegetable oil, TBHQ, and BHA. It contains milk and soy, two common allergens, and high quantities of sugar. It is not a healthy product.
The homemade version can be healthier, depending on the ingredients you choose. Using most packaged marshmallows to make Rice Krispie Treats at home will likely contain too high of a sugar content.
Rice Krispie Nutrition FAQs
The packaged version of Rice Krispie Treats is a highly processed food and not healthy. You’ll be better off making them yourself at home, where you control what ingredients you use and can choose healthier options.
In moderation, homemade Rice Krispie treats should be tolerated by most people.
Yes, you can try to make healthy rice krispie treats. It’s all about choosing healthier, minimally processed ingredients. You can use more nutritious rice cereal that is gluten-free and has minimal processing, grass-fed butter, and clean marshmallows. Look for these ingredients at a health food store like Whole Foods.
To make healthier vegan Rice Krispie Treats, you can use melted coconut oil instead of butter and buy clean, vegan marshmallows or make them using agar agar.In both cases, try to use healthy ingredients without too much sugar.
You can try almond butter with a bit of maple syrup. Together, these ingredients create a sticky mixture that can work as well as marshmallows in making Rice Krispie Treats.
Rice Krispies cereal is not made with 100% rice, but it contains it. The crisp and crunchy cereal is made of a rice and sugar paste formed into the shape of a rice grain and then dried and toasted. It expands and forms the thin, hollowed walls that give the crisp cereal its crunch.
Healthy Snacks to Consider
Rice Krispie Treats, especially the packaged version, are mostly high-glycemic carbs. Because of this, it can cause quick energy spikes and drops. Except for the B vitamins, iron, and folate contained in this product, it has no nutritional value. If you love Rice Krispie Treats, it’s best to make a healthier version at home using quality ingredients and have it in moderation while focusing on a healthy diet.
Note: this post is for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. Please consult your healthcare provider for recommendations related to your individual situation.
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About the Author: Carrie Forrest has a master’s degree in public health with a specialty in nutrition. She is a top wellness and food blogger with nearly 10 million annual visitors to her site. Carrie has an incredible story of recovery from chronic illness and is passionate about helping other women transform their health. Send Carrie a message through her contact form.