Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Cereality Check: How to Choose a Cold Breakfast Cereal

I have my standard cereal selection when I go into the massive cereal aisle. I'm not that old, and even I can remember when the cereal options took up a fourth of an aisle, if that. Now, an entire stretch of the store has brightly colored boxes neatly pressed from side to side and top to bottom. The funny thing is that most of the cereals are the same sugar, corn, enriched wheat (whole wheat if you're lucky), and salt. They may come in different forms. For example, sugar can be corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, brown sugar, brown rice syrup, cane syrup/juice, and/or malt syrup. Similar formulas but repackaged and reprocessed in a different shape to entice children or adults.

There are a few guidelines I like to give people when choosing cereals. I listed them in order of importance.

1. Greater than 3g fiber per serving (this is a very modest amount...the more fiber, the better!)
        Choose cereals with whole wheat and other whole grains as the fiber source, not isolated forms like chicory root that haven't been proven to have the same beneficial powers as other natural occuring fibers.

2. Pack in some protein - at least 3g per serving.
        Fiber and protein will help keep you going until lunch time as they take longer to digest. Automatically choosing a cereal with whole grains will increase the protein content as you consume the hull, or shell of the grain where most of the protein is located.

2 (equal importance as protein!). Added sugar should be a miniumum (if any) - choose one with less than 6g of sugar per serving.
         If you don't think it's sweet enough, add chopped fruit or frozen berries. Sprinkling cinnamon can help too.

3. Limit salt in cereals to less than 175mg per serving.
        Breakfast cereals in general are not a yeast/bread baking type recipe, thus there shouldn't be salt. Salt is added as a preservative and should be limited.

Below is a table of some commonly consumed cereals. What do you think? Do you see a cereal you consume that's a good option? Or maybe, you can find a better option than the one you're currently eating. Hint: only about 3 are dietitian approved. :)

General Mills Cheerios®
Post Honey Bunches of Oats Honey Roasted
Post Shredded Wheat Original

Multi-Bran Chex®

GoLean® Original

Special K®

Kellogg’s® Raisin Bran®
Contains at least
3 g of fiber/ serving

Contains no more than 6 g of sugar/ serving


Contains no trans fat

Contains no more than
175 mg sodium

Contains at least
3 g of protein/ serving

**Note: a variety of brands were shown for demonstration purposes, but other great options include: Kellogg's Bran Buds, Kellogg's All-Bran, Uncle Sam's cereal (incredibly affordable stuff!), other Kashi GOLEAN cereals, and others!

Have more questions about choosing breakfast cereals? Email me!

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