How to Choose a Good Breakfast Cereal
Kids love to eat cereal and it can become a daily staple in their diet. Food companies love to market these products in fun ways too–cartoon characters on the box, toys in the box, and fun games to play while eating the cereal. Of course, it’s all fun and games until you look past the marketing and realize that this cereal may be packed with sugar and lacking important nutrients. It’s not the cartoon characters, but rather, the nutrition facts and ingredients that should sway you to make a healthy choice for your family.
Look at the Ingredients
Cereals should not be judged by their box. The front of the box is misleading, so the Nutrition Facts panel is the place to look. “Made with Whole Grain” sounds good, but what does it mean? Check the ingredients label. Does it say ‘enriched flour’ or ‘bleached flour’? If so, it doesn’t make the grade. The first ingredient should read ‘whole wheat’ or ‘whole oats’.
Find the Fiber
A way to double check the whole grain quantity is to look at the Dietary Fiber. Does it have three grams of fiber per serving? If yes, then you are getting closer to finding the right cereal. (Keep in mind, some cereals have enriched flour, but add fiber back in, so it’s best to still look at the ingredients.)
Sugar isn’t so Sweet
Sugar can sneak into your children’s cereal. In fact, Consumer Reports reports that some cereals are 50% sugar! (The two worst were Post’s Golden Crisps and Kellogg’s Honey Smacks.) This added sugar doesn’t add much to your child’s overall health. Looking at the sugar content will give you a better idea of the sugar than the carbohydrate grams. And if you are anything like my family, we had a sugar shaker that we sprinkled on what we thought was bland, so make sure this doesn’t become a habit. Also, beware of artificial sweeteners while would lower the sugar content, but still cause your child to develop an affinity for sweet cereals.
Beat them at their own Game
Now, show the food companies who’s boss! Store your cereal in clear plastic containers and ditch the (sometimes) misleading boxes. It won’t influence your child’s food choices like Tony the Tiger can. Learn steps you can take at the grocery store to avoid heavy commercial influence.
Take the Test
Look at the cereal in your pantry right now. Does it pass the test?
- Whole wheat/oat?
- 3 grams of fiber per serving?
- Limited added sugar?
If not, try a few of these cereal winners:
- Cascadian Farm (variety)
- Kashi Organic Promise
- Wheat Chex
- Post Shredded Wheat