Thousands of types of cereal are available. Some offer complete nutrition, high fiber and low amounts of added sugar. Others, however, are simply made of refined flour and corn syrup with laboratory-added vitamins and minerals. While a high-fiber, low-sugar cereal may offer an occasionally satisfying and nutritionally adequate meal replacement, relying on it or using sugary types for meal replacements is not a healthy practice.
Your body best absorbs vitamins and minerals from food that naturally contains these nutrients. While supplements and fortified foods, such as ready-to-eat cereal, can help you round out your nutrient intake, your focus should be on whole, natural sources of vitamins and minerals. A diet of just cereal and milk excludes fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, fish, meats and beans – all of which should form the foundation of a healthy eating plan.
Refined and Processed Foods
Many cereals contain highly refined flours, added sugars and artificial colors and preservatives. With just 1 to 2 g of fiber per serving, you would have to eat 12 to 38 servings daily to meet the Institute of Medicine recommended daily requirement for good health. Many processed cereals also contain BHT and BHA, butylated hydroxytoluene and butylated hydroxyanisole, which are synthetic preservatives. The Center for the Science in the Public Interest warns against consuming these additives as they have may be carcinogenic.
Weight loss plans that recommend substituting cereal for one or two meals daily may lead to a change on the scale. The reason these programs work is because they cause you to eat fewer calories than you burn, which almost always spurs weight loss. These plans also advocate at least one full, balanced meal and snacks that are not cereal-based every day. They also include fresh fruit when you eat cereal as a meal.
Ready-to-eat cereal can be a healthy choice for breakfast or another meal of choice, if you opt for healthy versions. Scan the ingredient list – a whole grain, such as whole wheat or oats, should be the first ingredient. Cereals with at least 3 g of protein and 25 to 40 percent of zinc and iron are good choices. Ideally, you cereal choice will feature 5 g of fiber and less than 5 g of sugar. Skip any cereals with partially hydrogenated oils, which indicates that they contain some trans fats.
- "Journal of the American College of Nutrition";Ready-to-Eat Cereal Used as a Meal Replacement Promotes Weight Loss in Humans; R.D. Mattes; December 2002
- AskDr.Sears.com: Choosing Cereal
- Center for Science in the Public Interest: Food Additives
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Fruits and Veggies Matter