The number of cold cereals available has increased so much that many grocery stores have an entire aisle dedicated just to cereal. To help attract you to their brands, many manufacturers plaster the front of their cereal boxes with phrases like “Made from whole grains” or “Good for heart health.” While it can be tempting to trust these claims and just grab a box and go, it takes a little more detective work to find the healthiest options.
Watch for Whole Grains
Cereal manufacturers are allowed to use the phrase “Made with whole grains” if the cereal contains any whole grains at all; but what you want is a cereal that is made entirely of whole grains and doesn’t contain refined grains. Look at the ingredient list and make sure the first and second ingredients say whole-grain wheat, whole-grain oats or bran. If the word “whole” isn’t stated, you can assume the grains are refined, according to CNN.com. Avoid cereals that list rice, rice flour or enriched wheat in the ingredients.
Find Some Fiber
Your breakfast cereal should contain at least 3 grams of fiber per serving. Ideally, however, it will contain 5 grams per serving. Fiber helps satisfy you, keeping you full until your next meal and helping to maintain your weight. Fiber also keeps your bowels regular and plays a role in heart health by lowering blood cholesterol levels. Women need about 25 grams of fiber per day, while men should aim for 38 grams.
Search for Sugar
Many cereals are loaded with sugar, which lacks any nutritional value at all. Start your day right by choosing a cold cereal that contains no more than 8 grams of sugar per serving. But keep in mind that the measure of sugar grams doesn’t tell you everything you need to know. Some sugar may be added, while some comes from dried fruit. Avoid added sugar by reading the ingredient list and cutting out any cereal that contains sucrose, glucose, fructose, corn syrup, honey or maple syrup. All of these terms indicate the presence of added sugar.
Cereal serving sizes generally range from 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup; however, many people just pour cereal into a bowl until it’s full and call that a serving. Doing so can lead to taking in more calories than you intend to, especially because some cereals, like granola, may be higher in calories than you realize. To stay within calorie recommendations, pay attention to serving sizes by measuring out portions, and choose cereals that contain no more than 250 calories per serving.
- University of Massachusetts Medical School: How Does Your Cereal Rate?
- CNN.com: How to Choose a Healthy Breakfast Cereal
- EatRight Ontario: How to Choose the Best Cold Breakfast Cereals
- Clemson Cooperative Extension: Choosing Breakfast Cereals
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: What's in Your Morning Spoonful?