Breakfast Cereal Selection: Health vs Hype

Photo by jetalone via Flickr

Photo by jetalone via Flickr

Susan’s mornings were always hectic.  That is why she either skipped breakfast or grabbed a coffee and a pastry on her way to work every morning.  Until her older sister had a heart attack that is.  While Susan was visiting her in the hospital after the quadruple bypass, she realized that it could be her in that bed one day if she didn’t make some changes.  That is when Susan decided to make her health a priority.

The first step Susan chose to make was to start eating a nutritious breakfast every morning.  So, yesterday she stopped at the store and bought a healthy sounding cereal with all the buzzwords, such as “all natural”, “no cholesterol” and “no trans fat”.  Unfortunately, she didn’t realize that the cereal that she chose was full of sugar and had very little fiber.  It was not such a healthy choice after all.  If only she had read the nutrition label.

How do I choose a healthy breakfast cereal?
Just because a cereal sounds healthy, does not mean that it is healthy.  There are a lot of popular, healthy sounding cereals lurking in the cereal aisle that hold little to no nutritional value.  That’s why it is important to look past the marketing hype on the front of the box and read the nutrition label.

Here are 6 tips to consider the next time you buy cereal:

  1. Avoid high sugar cereals: You don’t want your cereal to be as sugary as a candy bar!  If sugar or any other sweetener, such as corn syrup, honey or molasses is high on the ingredient list or there is more than one sweetener listed, you can be sure that you are eating a high sugar cereal.  Aim for a cereal where less then 25% of its calories are due to sugar.  If a cereal contains dried fruit, it can be a little higher in sugar because while dried fruit adds sugar, it also adds extra nutrition to your cereal.
  2. Avoid high fat cereals: Even though most cereals are low in fat, some cereals like granola use palm kernel or coconut oil, making them higher in saturated fat.  So, make sure to check the ingredients list.
  3. Avoid high sodium cereals: If you are trying to reduce your salt intake, buy a cereal with little to no sodium.  Most cereals have 200 to 300 milligrams of sodium per serving and sometimes more, which might be too much for you.
  4. Choose high fiber cereals: Look for brands with 5 or more grams of fiber per serving.  Whole grain cereals, such as ones containing whole wheat flour, barley or oats tend to be high in fiber.  That’s important because eating fiber has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and lower cholesterol levels.
  5. Choose cereals with whole grains: Cereals that have whole grains give you more fiber, vitamins and minerals than refined grains (white flour).  And these grains should be listed first on the ingredient list because ingredients are listed in order from highest to lowest quantity.  Eating more whole grains can reduce the risk of diabetes and heart disease.  Refined grain cereals provide no such health benefits.
  6. Read the ingredient list: Also, make sure that the ingredient list is not too long and that there are not many unnecessary ingredients, such as artificial flavors, colors, preservatives or ingredients which you don’t even recognize as a food.  Simpler, shorter ingredients lists usually mean a less processed, healthier cereal.

The bottom line:
Choosing a healthy breakfast cereal takes only a small amount of effort on your part.  So, take the time to read the nutritional label and aim for a whole grain cereal that is high in fiber, low in sugar and sodium and has no saturated fat. It will be time well spent because breakfast is an important meal to get your day started off the right way!

Comments (5)

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  1. i agree with everything you post above, but somehow i never realize that before. thank you for the advice. lately i’ve been consuming honey and VCO (virgin coconut oil), is that good?

  2. Talli van Sunder says:

    @Muhammad VCO is better than processed coconut oil, however it still is high in saturated fat and should be used in moderation. As for honey, as long as you don’t use too much it is fine and it is definitely better than using sugar.

  3. Maria Isabel says:

    Good podcast. It is nice to know what ingredients to avoid in order to have a healthy breakfast. I will continue to eat my Quaker Oats.

  4. sam says:

    i dont like this =]

  5. […] 2008 ← Breakfast Cereal Selection: Health vs Hype Tea’s Caffeine: Longer Energy Without the Jitters […]

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