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Cereal: How to Choose Healthy Flakes

by ADMIN on OCTOBER 4, 2012

(Photo: Cooking Light)

The dreaded cereal aisle. Kids pestering, people staring cross-eyed at Nutrition Facts Panels, the token owner-less cart left idle in the middle of the row, blocking traffic from both directions.

Then there’s you… wanting to make a good decision but also just wanting to get the heck out of dodge!

Breakfast is an important way to start the day, but only if you eat the right thing. Cereal can be an easy, quick solution – so here are some tips for choosing the best one for you and your family.

1. Whole Grain & High Fiber. Most cereals are made of primarily refined grains or sugar, which will leave you on a crazy blood-sugar roller coaster that ultimately ends with sluggishness and fatigue. Look for cereals with little or no refined grains in the ingredient list OR make sure the first two ingredients are whole grain, bran, or soy.

Also, be sure the cereal has at least 3 grams of fiber per serving in light cereals (1 oz or about 30 grams) and 6 grams per serving in heavy cereals (2 oz or about 55 grams).

2. Calories. Cereals don’t have a uniform serving size, rather, they vary anywhere from 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup to 1 1/4 cup. This means if the granola cereal you pick up has 210 calories in one (1/2 cup) serving, you’ll be eating 420 calories when you eat one full cup in the morning! Look for cereals with no more than 250 calories per cup.

3. Added Sugars. Because Nutrition Fact labels don’t distinguish natural sugar from added, it’s hard to give a specific number to stay under. Instead, look at the ingredient list and avoid cereals that have more than 2-3 different added sugars. Added sugars include: honey, beet sugar/juice, evaporated cane juice, evaporated fruit juice, molasses, brown sugar, luo han fruit concentrate, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, brown rice syrup.

4. Sodium. Just like breads, cereals can be a hidden source of sodium. Some have the same amount of sodium as a serving of chips! Look for cereals with less than 120mg sodium per serving.

Watch out for:

Fruit. Sometimes added fruit also means more added sugars and food dyes to enhance the flavor.

Yogurt. How can they get yogurt to stay solid when it’s not refrigerated? Because it’s not real yogurt! It’s just sugar, oil, and heat-treated yogurt powder. In fact, many “yogurt” coatings are made with partially-hydrogenated oils (trans fats!).

Chocolate. Really? You want chocolate in your cereal? Ok, even if you do – most times they don’t even use real chocolate but instead a blend of sugar, soybean oil, milk, and a bit of cocoa.

Added Fiber. Many times, cereals boast extra fiber. How do they add it? Isolated fibers. These are things such as inulin (chicory root fiber), soy fiber, oat fiber, and soluble corn fiber. Unfortunately, research shows that only intact fibers provide health benefits. That’s fiber from whole grains. When fiber is separated from it’s original source and then added to something else, it hasn’t been shown to have the same benefits.

Good Choices

  • General Mills Cheerios

  • Geneal Mills Multigrain Cheerios

  • Cascadian Farm Organic Purely O’s

  • General Mills Fiber One 80 Calories

  • General Mills Total Whole Grain

  • General Mills Wheaties

  • Arrowhead Mills Organic Flakes – Amaranth, Oat Bran, Spelt

  • Newman’s Own Sweet Enough Honey

  • Newman’s Own Sweet Enough Cinnamon Fiber Flakes

  • Weetabix Whole Grain Biscuit

  • Whole Foods 365 Organic Whole Wheat Flakes

  • Kellogg’s All Bran Complete Wheat Flakes

  • Post Bran Flakes

  • Trade Joe’s Bran Flakes

  • Kellogg’s Special K Protein Plus

  • Kashi Honey Sunshine

  • Kashi Berry Blossoms

  • Nature’s Path Organic Heritage Bites

  • Nature’s Path Organic Multigrain Oatbran

  • Nature’s Path Organic Flax Plus Multibran Flakes


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