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"I am curious about the expression, "Part of this complete breakfast." The way it comes up is, my 5-year-old will be watching TV cartoon shows in the morning, and they'll show a commercial for a children's compressed breakfast compound such as "Froot Loops" or "Lucky Charms, " and they always show it sitting on a table next to a some actual food such as eggs, and the announcer always says: "Part of this complete breakfast." Don't they really mean, "Adjacent to this complete breakfast, " or "On the same table as this complete breakfast"? And couldn't they make essentially the same claim if, instead of Froot Loops, they put a can of shaving cream there, or a dead bat?"

Scam pulled by breakfast cereals. Sure, this bowl full of sugar is healthy, and has the vitamins your body needs...

...provided you also eat the toast, bacon, cheese, pancakes, fruit, vegetables, orange juice, milk (etc.) all served on a 5-star table setting to get the rest of this "complete breakfast" that they depict in their advertisements.

The claim is technically a legal requirement, but like a Stealth Cigarette Commercial, the companies have hidden the obvious beneath the implications. (After all -- really! -- if you're still hungry after eating a bowl of cereal, do you cook yourself some eggs and bacon? Or make toast? Or do you just grab the cereal box and pour yourself another bowl?)

For example, the nutrition panels on cereal boxes in the UK tend to include the vitamins and calcium from average milk on top of those present in the dry cereal by itself, but this is more reasonable. Canadian and US labels show both the pre- and post-milk values.

Compounding the issue is the fact that, in the 1950s and 60s, having sugar added to a breakfast cereal was actually its selling point. You normally added your own sugar to your cereal anyway, and a pre-sweetened cereal meant you could save a step. By the end of the 1970s, though, sugar had become demonized, so sugary cereals took steps to downplay their sugar content: They changed their names (e.g. from Sugar Smacks to Honey Smacks, or from Sugar Frosted Flakes to just Frosted Flakes), and they started splitting the sugar into multiple types so that "sugar" no longer appeared at the top of the ingredients list (e.g. instead of being "Sugar, wheat flour, oat flour, ...", the ingredients now read "Wheat and oat flour, sugar, glucose-fructose, ...", even though the contents of the box were identical).

Of course, it's possible the guy's barely-comprehensible spiel actually meant "apart of this complete breakfast" -- hey, what's a little grammatical error between friends?

A newer variant of this is pulled by health products, particularly diet pills and nutritional supplements, where the ad claims the product will help you lose weight and/or be healthy when taken "with diet and exercise"; it's the diet and exercise that provide most of the effect, with the pills or nutritional supplements doing little actual work. (And they have a necessary legal obligation of their own, in that they are "not intended to prevent, diagnose, or treat any disease".)

Examples of Adjacent to This Complete Breakfast include:

Advertising

  • A cereal touted for its independent nutrition content once poked fun at this trope.
  • Nutella got in trouble for trying this in one of its commercials.
  • Almost any sugary cereal aimed at children during The Seventies and The Eighties: Frosted Flakes, Froot Loops, Lucky Charms, Cookie Crisp, Cocoa Puffs...
  • Slim-Fast. Lose weight with a shake for breakfast, a shake for lunch, and a sensible dinner. People who eat sensible dinners don't need the product.
    • And even better, are eating a sensible breakfast and a sensible lunch (and maybe having a sensible snack), so they're actually eating more than the Slim-Fast planners, but because of the sensibleness are slimmer already.
  • Ensure shakes are a tasty nutritional supplement. The ads cannot make clear how.

Newspaper Comics

  • As pictured above, Calvin eats cereal that takes five grapefruits and a dozen bran muffins to even out the sugar (and possibly more, since Hobbes trails off while explaining this).

Web Animation

  • Parodied in the Homestar Runner cartoon "Cheat Commandos...O's", where the titular cereal is shown next to a piece of chocolate cake, some caramels, and a glass of marshmallows, with the caption "Nutritious Breakfast", where the word "nutritious" has been crossed out and replaced with "delicious". There is also a subtitle that reads "Gallon of Ice Cream not pictured."
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