breakfast

Before I even get started on a discussion of Nutella's current cross-country "Breakfast Tour," I feel compelled to give full disclosure: I am a huge fan of the chocolate-hazelnut spread. Long before it could be found on U.S. supermarket shelves, I discovered it as a 10-year-old spending the summer in Italy. I was an incredibly picky eater at the time, turning my nose up at myriad Italian delicacies, but Nutella -- spread over crackers, cookies or freshly baked Italian bread -- was my go-to treat all summer long.

At the time, I didn't give any thought to Nutella's relative health merits, or lack thereof (I was 10), but the spread has recently taken some heat on the health front. Last spring, two moms won class action lawsuits against the makers of Nutella for false advertising in commercials that made it sound like a health spread by claiming "Nutella is made with simple, quality ingredients like hazelnuts, skim milk and a hint of cocoa."

Yes, it does contain hazelnuts (the company claims more than 50 nuts per 13 ounce jar), but it also contains heaps of sugar. Sugar is the first ingredient listed on the ingredients label, and there are a whopping 21 grams in every two tablespoon-size serving. That makes Nutella an even sweeter treat than the kids cereals -- such as Kelloggs Honey Smacks -- that were exposed last year as having more sugar per serving than a Twinkie.

Arguably, what you eat -- or serve your kids -- for breakfast is your business. But in an age when more than 50 percent of adults are either overweight or obese, and childhood obesity rates are increasing annually, you've got to admit that it seems a tad irresponsible to start the day with gigantic sugar rush.

But that's exactly what Nutella's "Breakfast Tour" has set out to encourage. While any mention of the word "health" or "healthy" is conspicuously absent from its promotional materials, the company's website describes a Nutella breakfast as "tasty" and "balanced." Over the next few months, trucks-full of Nutella breakfast treats are hitting the streets in cities across the country. And yes, if one drives up near me, I will most definitely indulge. But if I'm looking to replace my normal oatmeal-with-fruit breakfast for some chocolate and sugar, I could just grab a Snickers bar. It's cheaper than Nutella.