By: Nikki Nies
During my community rotation, I’ve spent more time with the younger than 18 year old population than I can say I’ve ever have. Although, I’m more comfortable with the geriatric population, I’ve walked away from this particular part of my dietetic internship with some notes! I’m pleased to say more and more children are walking out the door eating breakfast. Next obstacle to tackle, making sure they are eating quality breakfasts. I asked some my summer campers what they eat for breakfast. Most common answers: pancakes, waffles, cereals, oatmeal, toasted strudel and a breakfast sandwich.
I don’t know all cereals, but some helpful tips on how to discern which cereals are better than others.
- Disregard the health claims on the cereal box–head for the nutrition fact label
- Remember the sugar from fruit is included in the amount of total sugar
- If “whole grains” (i.e. whole grain oats) is listed as one of the top ingredients it’s a better option than cereals that list rice or rice flour. If the word “whole” is not listed before a grain, one can assume it’s refined. Rice or rice flour is a refined grain, which you want to limit.
- Compare the amount of sugar and grains to the suggested serving size. If the amount of whole grains and serving size are close in number, that means it’s almost whole grain
- Assess what the first two ingredients are on the nutrition fact label. Ingredient amounts are listed in descending order.
- Not all fiber is created equally. Many cereals contain isolated fibers, which are fibers that are made into powders (i.e. oat flour, soy flour and/or corn flour). Ignore the claims of “high in fiber” and assess the whole grain status
- Stay away from advertised yogurt clusters. While it sounds “healthy”, yogurt clusters=oil+sugar–>no health benefits
- Opt for cereals that contain: No more than 250 calories/cup; no artificial sweeteners (i.e. aspartame)
Some recommended cereals with their nutrition breakdown:
- Post Shredded Wheat Original, 150 calories, 5.3 g of fiber, 0.4 g of sugar per 2 biscuits (46 g)
- Barbara’s Bakery Shredded Wheat, 140 calories, 5 g of fiber, 0 g of sugar per 2 biscuits (40 g)
- Kashi 7 Whole Grains Puffs, 70 calories, 1 g of fiber, 0 g of sugar per cup
- Kashi Island Vanilla, 250 calories, 6 g of fiber, 2.5 tsp sugar per cup
- Kellogg Unfrosted Mini-Wheats Bite Size, 200 calories, 6 g of fiber, 1 g of sugar per 30 biscuits (59 g)
It can be overwhelming to rummage through all the nutrition fact labels in the cereal aisle. Perhaps, head to the supermarket at 8PM or on Wednesdays, which are notoriously slower grocery days. Take your time and I’m sure you’ll find the perfect fit!
How to Choose a Healthy Breakfast Cereal