The cereal aisle of the supermarket can be overwhelming. With so many different brands and options, it is hard to know which products to choose. Cereal can be a healthy breakfast or snack, but if you don’t choose the right options, you can end up eating a day’s worth of sugar in your bowl.
One teaspoon of granulated sugar is equivalent to 4 grams of sugar. Therefore if a bowl of cereal contains 10 grams of added sugar, it is the equivalent of adding 2.5 teaspoons of sugar. Choosing the right cereal will help energize you for the day, while the wrong cereal will have you feeling hungry within an hour or two.
When choosing a cereal, look for a product with at least 4 grams of fiber, 3 grams of protein and less than 6-8 grams of sugar per serving. You should also look for a short and recognizable ingredient list, with a whole grain listed as the first ingredient.
While not necessary for everyone, cereals labeled as fortified with vitamins and minerals can help people meet their micronutrient needs. When a food is fortified with vitamins and minerals it means that vitamins or minerals have been added to a food that they were not initially in. A study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics showed that many children and adolescents do not meet their micronutrient requirements and the fortification of ready to eat cereals with vitamins and minerals can help people meet their nutrition needs.
Bowls are often deceivingly large, and as a result people pour more than one serving of cereal at a time. Using a measuring cup to measure the serving size listed on the package can help you learn what a serving should look like. If you are not satisfied with what an actual serving of cereal looks like, there are ways to make your cereal more filling and more nutritious.
Adding fruit, nuts, and seeds to your cereal is a great way to increase the fiber, protein, and nutrients to help you feel fuller. Another great way to add more protein is to mix your cereal with plain Greek yogurt instead of milk. Greek yogurt provides ~23g of protein/8 oz compared with milk which provides ~8g of protein/8oz.
In addition to ready to eat cereals, the cereal aisles have many hot cereals to choose from too. Instead of choosing pre packaged oatmeals that can be high in sodium and sugar and low in protein and fiber, make your own hot cereals. Making your own hot cereals allows you add the toppings of your choice to change the flavors while controlling the sugar, sodium, fiber and protein. Oatmeal and quinoa both make great hot cereals and taste great sweetened with cinnamon and fruit.
Remember, always read the nutrition facts label and learn what portions should look like!
Linzy Ziegelbaum, MS, RD, CDN is a registered dietitian and owner of the private practice LNZnutrition LLC. She provides nutrition counseling and education to clients of all ages with many nutrition needs. Linzy enjoys sharing her love and nutrition expertise with others through counseling, her LNZnutrition blog and social media pages, including Facebook and Instagram.
Main Photo Credit: Elnur/shutterstock.com; Second Photo Credit: wavebreakmedia/shutterstock.com; Third Photo Credit: Daxiao Productions/shutterstock.com