Cereal is a common go-to breakfast food because it is quick, easy and convenient. Unfortunately, many popular cereals are loaded with sugar, so it is important to check out the food label to make sure you are making a good choice. It can be confusing when going down the cereal aisle, but the following tips can help you to choose a healthier cereal.
- Calories: In general, cereal should have 200 calories or less per serving. Watch serving sizes, which can vary from ½ cup to 1 cup. You may want to grab your favorite cereal bowl, pour out the amount you usually eat, and then measure it to get a better idea of how much cereal you’re actually consuming.
- Total sugar: Look for a cereal with 6 grams or less of total sugar. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 25 grams of added sugars per day for women and less than 36 grams for men. Look at the ingredient list, and avoid cereals with multiple forms of sugar such as high fructose corn syrup, brown rice syrup, honey, evaporated cane juice, and fruit juice concentrate.
- Fiber: Pick a cereal with 5 grams or more of fiber to help you to feel full until lunchtime. The recommended daily requirement for fiber is between 25 to 38 grams per day. Be sure to look at the ingredient list and choose a cereal with the first ingredient listed as 100% whole wheat, bran or whole oat. If the front of the box says, “whole grain,” then at least half of the grain ingredients are whole grain. If it says “100% whole grain,” all of the grains are whole grain. Many studies have linked whole grains with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
- Pay attention to protein. Including protein in your breakfast helps to stave off hunger and keeps blood sugars steady. Most cereals contain 3 to 4 grams of protein per serving, but some contain 6 grams or more. To boost the protein, add milk to your cereal, which contains 4 grams per ½ cup serving. Alternatively, top your cereal with plain Greek Yogurt, which contains about 13 grams of protein per ½ cup.
- Watch out for “fake” foods. Some cereals contain “fake” fruits or yogurt clusters. While this may sound healthy, they often contain food dyes, added sugars, and artificial flavorings. Rather than choosing a breakfast cereal with dried fruits that have been coated in sugar, add your own fresh or dried fruit.
Breakfast cereal can be a healthy way to jump start your day if you spend some extra time at the store to make a healthy choice.