There’s no question that a bowl of cereal is an easy and fast meal in the morning, but without tips for choosing cereal, it can be hard to get your money’s worth. I don’t want to eat cereal that tastes like a sugar cube and I want it offer up something in the way of vitamins and minerals at the same time. When you stand on the grocery store aisle, it can be overwhelming to say the least. There must be at least 100 options! Keep these tips for choosing cereal in mind and you won’t have to stand there in a daze.
1. See How Much Sugar It Has
Too much sugar can result in insulin dependence, which plays a role in the development of diabetes. You don’t want to go down that route, so it’s always a good idea to check the sugar content before you bring a box of cereal home. I’d call this the most important of the many tips for choosing cereal. In general, you want to stay away from anything that has more than 8 grams of the sweet stuff per serving. If you love sugary cereal, try mixing your favorite with a lower sugar option to keep your intake in check.
2. Check the Fiber Content
Fiber is a nutrient that plays a role in healthy digestion and can help control your cholesterol levels too. At the same time, fiber fills you up and helps keep hunger at bay. This is great if you’re trying to maintain your weight or shed a few pounds. Look for a box of cereal that contains at least 3 grams of fiber per serving, though closer to 5 grams is better.
3. Read the Calorie Information
Taking in more calories than you burn is a sure fire way to pile on the pounds. This makes it vital to read the calorie information in cereal before making a choice. Your best bets are those that have 200 or fewer calories per serving. This way, you can enjoy a yummy bowl of cereal for breakfast or a midnight snack without compromising your health goals.
4. Make Sure It Has Protein
Protein is important for muscle function and recovery after exercise. It also plays a role in healthy hair, skin and nails. Making sure your box of cereal contains at least 2 grams of protein per serving is a great way to ensure that your meal is contributing enough to your daily intake recommendations.
5. Look for Fat Content
It’s always a good idea to keep your fat intake under control because too much increases the risk of heart disease and weight gain. The ideal type of cereal contains no more than 3 grams of fat per serving. Keep in mind that milk adds fat too, so this might not sound like much, but it balances out and ensures that your daily intake isn’t more than it should be.
6. Look at the Vitamin and Mineral Content
To reach the daily intake recommendations for important vitamins and minerals, it’s important to ensure that each meal contains a good amount so you don’t end the day in the red. When you make your cereal selection, look for boxes that list 10 to 25 percent of nutrients like iron, calcium and B vitamins.
7. Make Sure It Tastes Good
I absolutely hate eating food that doesn’t taste good just because it’s healthy. Don’t do this to yourself. Try out a variety of cereals, but stick with the ones that you enjoy eating, otherwise, you’ll just end up throwing them out and wasting your money. Healthy doesn’t have to taste bad, so find cereal you like and you’ll get all the benefits!
8. Make Sure It's Whole Grain
The best way to start out your day is to pack on healthy whole grains with a bowl of cereal. However don't fall for those cereal boxes that say 'Made with Whole Grain' because those types of cereals are often misleading. The best thing to do is to actually look at the list of ingredients and spot whole grain wheat or whole grain oats. However if instead you notice that rice or rice flour are part of the ingredients, stay clear of that cereal because it has refined grain which is not something you want to fuel your body with.
9. Stay Clear of Fake Fruits
Today you will find more than half of the cereals on the market containing fruits, sounds great right? Wrong! Many of those cereals actually contain fake fruits made with food dyes and gelatin. Therefore in order to stay clear of such deceiving claims, once again check the ingredients list and look for real fruit!
10. Avoid 'slimming' Cereals
There are so many cereals out there claiming that they can help you loose 2-3 pant sizes but in reality this is too good to be true. Although they might be high in fiber, their fiber is processed and therefore cannot be good for your body. So don't grab a box of cereal just because it claims to help you loose weight. It is just a way for them to get your attention!
11. Count Ingredients
One of the most simple way to know whether a specific cereal should be part of your healthy diet is by glancing at the ingredient list. If that list is longer than 10-12 items, put that box down and move on to the next one. Healthy cereals usually don't have a bunch of preservatives and other ingredients that you can't even pronounce!
I love cereal as a snack before bed. When do you eat cereal? How do you choose a healthy cereal? I have my stand bys, but now I’m also equipped to make some new selections.
This article was written in collaboration with editor Vladlena Lee.