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How to Choose Breakfast Cereal That’s Right for You

02J72229-337x337Choose breakfast cereal. It is quick, easy, and the options are endless…

However, the grocery store aisle with breakfast cereals can be overwhelming. Most cereals are either obviously full of unhealthy ingredients or have hidden additives. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day because it helps you concentrate, can stabilize blood sugar, and can help with weight loss. (National Weight Control Registry)

Here are some suggestions to keep in mind when buying a breakfast cereal:

Sugars

Most high sugar cereals are fairly obvious. Typically the boxes showing candy, sugar-coating and marshmallows are easy to avoid. However, even some of the not-so-obvious cereals may contain too much sugar for you or your family. Many cereals like to make health claims on the front of the box. However, these may merely be claims. The proof will be on the nutrition fact label on the side of the box. Be especially careful for the boxes labeled “high fiber.” A few extra grams of fiber may not be worth the trouble when the cereal contains 40% sugar. Look for cereals with 10 grams or less of sugar. Some cereals may contain real fruit, like raisins. These fruits will contain naturally occurring sugars and will increase the grams of sugar. Remember, if the cereal contains real fruit, slightly higher sugar is okay, just watch the total calories.

Fiber

Breakfast is a great opportunity to add extra fiber to your daily, needs because so many breakfast foods lend themselves to be high in fiber content. Look for cereals with at least 3 grams of fiber (5 is better). Seek out fiber that comes from whole grains. Oat, corn, and soy fibers have little-to-no nutrition and are often added so the cereal can claim “high fiber.” Typically, adults need about 25-30 grams of fiber per day.

Whole Grains

Many cereals boast “made with whole grains.” Again, this may or may not be true. The only way to know for sure is to read the nutrition facts label. Check the ingredients, too. Whole grains or bran should be one of the first two ingredients and it should say whole grain, whole wheat or whole grain oats – 16 grams of whole grains = 1 serving. If the ingredients mention rice or rice flour, it is better left on the shelf.

Calories

Aim for no more than 200 calories per serving of cereal. Some of the denser cereals like granola tend to be higher in calories. Most people have larger cereal bowls and tend will fill them three quarters of the way to the top. This may mean 2-3 actual cups of cereal and the calories do add up. When you double or triple the serving, you also double or triple the calories, sodium, and sugar.

Although the cereal aisle can be an over-stimulating panorama of colored boxes, you can now use these tips and tools to help you navigate it, finding healthy options for you and your family. There are plenty of good cereals available, and once you find one you like, try adding fresh fruits or nuts for an extra nutritional kick.

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