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Choosing A Healthy Breakfast Cereal

As a kid, the conventional heaping bowl of Cheerios was standard fair. Never once did I not finish the whole bowl and even going as far as noting my record start to finish times.

Ok, cereal may not sound like a serious discussion topic, but it doesn’t take much research to find out there is quite a bit you might want to know about before sitting down to your next bowl.

Choosing a healthy breakfast cereal is mainly about getting some whole grains. Whole grain cereals come from grasses cultivated for the edible components of their grain. Naturally they are a rich source of vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, fats, oils and protein. However, when refined by the removal of the bran and germ the result is mostly just carbohydrates and lacks the majority of other nutrients.

I know finding a healthy breakfast cereal in a long aisle of contradictions can be daunting. But, if you eat cereal almost every day, either for breakfast or as a snack, the cereal you choose can say a lot about your health. “Recent research suggests those who eat more whole grains are at lower risk of diabetes and heart disease.”

The main attributes to a good healthy breakfast cereal are whole grains, low sugar, low sodium, no saturated fat or trans fat, and it should taste great! For a diet that avoids wheat, rye, barley and oats, gluten free cereals like Natural Path Organic make a great option.

There are plenty of breakfast cereals with the word “bran” in the title, or at least on the box. Bran’s biggest benefit is boosting the grams of fiber per serving. This makes the cereal more filling. Cereals made from whole wheat bran, without added sugar, hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils, are a good source of whole grains, folic acid, B vitamins, and potassium. Since bran is so filling, it is a good way to boost your nutrition while helping with appetite control.

Ideally you could just fill all the nooks and crannies of your bowl of cereal with sugar and let it coagulate into sugar coated goodness. However, this would definitely exceed the 25% of total added calories recommended by the U.S. Government’s Dietary Intake Reference.

Still if it doesn’t taste good you’re not going to eat it every day. So here is a list of good tasting healthy cereals that are easily found in the supermarket. They all have whole grain as the first ingredient. As well as a sugar content of around 25% of calories or lower, unless dried fruit was among the top three ingredients.

To calculate the percentage of calories from sugar in your cereal:

  1. Multiply the grams of sugar per serving by 4 (there are calories per gram of sugar).
  2. Divide this number (calories from sugar) by the total number of calories per serving.
  3. Multiply this number by 100 to get the percentage of calories from sugar.

Some Healthy Choices To Start Your Off Day Right

Post Grape-Nuts Trail Mix Crunch: 5 grams fiber, and 22% calories from sugar. The first three ingredients are whole grain wheat, malted barley, and sugar, followed by raisins and wheat bran.

Fiber One Bran Cereal: 14 grams fiber, 0% calories from sugar. First three ingredients are whole-grain wheat bran, corn bran, and cornstarch. This cereal only appeals to some people. I would suggest enhancing the flavor with cinnamon, fresh or dried fruit, and/or roasted nuts.

Quaker Oatmeal Squares: 5 grams fiber, 19% calories from sugar. The first three ingredients are whole oat flour, whole-wheat flour, and brown sugar.

Shredded wheat: 6 grams fiber, 0% calories from sugar (for a generic brand). The only ingredient is 100% whole grain cereal. I enjoy this with added fresh or dried fruit and nuts. If you opt for the frosted variety, it has 6 grams fiber and gets 23% of its calories from sugar.

Frosted Mini Wheats: 6 grams fiber, 24% calories from sugar. The first three ingredients are whole-grain wheat, sugar, and high-fructose corn syrup.

Raisin Bran: 7 grams fiber, 40% calories from sugar (in Kellogg’s brand). The first three ingredients are whole wheat, raisins, and wheat bran). Sugar is listed fourth in the ingredient list, but many of the calories from sugar come from the raisins.

Kashi Heart to Heart Honey Toasted Oat Cereal: 5 grams fiber, 18% calories from sugar. The first three ingredients are whole oat flour, oat bran, and evaporated cane juice. This is a higher-fiber alternative to Cheerios. I think they taste better, too. But that may be because there is more sweetener added (the evaporated cane juice).