It's important to remember that not all cereals are created equal and that's why it's important to follow these rules for choosing a healthy cereal. Many cereals are high in sugar, low in fiber and leave you starving only an hour later. Whether you enjoy cereal for breakfast, lunch, as a snack or for dinner, it's crucial that you select the right box. These days, it's easy to be deceived by the claims on the outside of the box, which all too often mean nothing at all. Next time you purchase a box, keep these rules for choosing a healthy cereal in mind!
1. Ignore the Front of the Box
When selecting your next box of cereal, one of my first rules for choosing a healthy cereal is to ignore the marketing claims on the front of the box and go straight to the food label. Marketers find ways to get away with a lot of false (or stretching of the truth) labeling, which can be very deceiving to you as the customer. Instead of being fooled by the marketing tactics, turn the box over and look straight at the food label. In my following points, I will show you just what you are looking for!
A lot of cereals today are extremely high in sugar and generally low in fiber. This dual combination causes your blood sugar to sky rocket and then crash shortly after, leaving you reaching for more food shortly after gobbling up your favorite bowl. When selecting a box of cereal, look for one with minimal "sugar" as listed on the food label. As a general rule of thumb, I try to select a cereal that has less than 10 grams of sugar per serving and one that is high in fiber (we'll talk about that next!). And just to note, don't be fooled by the labels that claim "naturally sweetened" - after all, all sugar is natural since it's derived from a plant!
The amount of fiber found in your box of cereal is very important when trying to select the healthiest box. Fiber causes the cereal to be digested much slower, helping you feel full for much longer. This provides your body a steady stream of energy and a balanced blood sugar instead of roller coaster highs and lows. When selecting a box of cereal, choose a box that is highest in fiber, preferably more than 5 grams per serving.
While you might not think that your breakfast bowl is full of sodium, nowadays you just can't be sure. Be certain to check the label on the cereal box, looking for an option with less than 100-150 mg of sodium per serving. And just to warn you, instant oats are guilty of this offense too! In your body, sodium acts like a sponge, causing you to retain water thus increasing your blood pressure after consumption. Over time this is very damaging to your health. Salt is added to cereals for taste and also to extend the shelf life, but look for a lower sodium option when selecting a healthy box!
5. Serving Size
It is very easy to over-serve portions when it comes to cereal! If you're anything like me, one bowl goes down pretty quickly! Unfortunately, some cereals may appear low in calories but if you take a closer look, usually their serving size is small too. For example, one serving might only contain 100 calories but one serving also only equals one-fourth of a cup! Who eats 1/4 of a cup of their favorite cereal? Look for cereals that are low in calories with a fair enough portion size. In general, I look for a cereal with less than 200 calories per cup.
The claim multigrain means nothing when it comes to food labeling. I'm sure you've noticed some of your favorite boxes of cereals or breads might read, "Multigrain" across the front of the box. All multigrain means is that there are many different grains found in that product, whole or not. When selecting a healthy cereal (or bread) look for the words "100% whole grain" instead. Whole grains are not stripped of their vitamins, minerals, fiber and other health benefits like non-whole grains.
Be very wary of the fruit that is added to your favorite cereal. Check the ingredient list closely because often, there isn't even any real fruit in the box at all; instead it might be fruit flavorings, corn syrup, oils and dyes. I prefer that you select a cereal that doesn't have any added fruit and then add your own! Fresh strawberries, blueberries and bananas all make great cereal toppings!
Cereal can be a great breakfast option as long as you take some time to find the right box for you! Find a cereal that is whole-grain, high in fiber, low in sugar and high in protein and your morning routine just got a little bit healthier! Top it with unsweetened almond milk, fresh berries and chopped bananas and you have yourself a well rounded meal! What is your favorite healthy box of cereal?