With so many varieties to choose from today, picking out a healthy box of cereal in the grocery aisle can often feel like searching for a needle in a haystack!
In order to spare your sanity and help you make a healthier choice, keep two simple rules in mind when choosing your next box of cereal.
Rule #1 – Remember the “Rule of Fives”
Healthy cereals provide at least 5 grams of fiber and no more than 5 grams of sugar per serving. You’ll find grams for Dietary Fiber and Sugar listed on the Nutrition Facts label on the cereal box.
Since whole grains are the best dietary source of fiber in cereal, they should always be the first item on the Ingredient list. Fiber provides SATIETY – this just means you’ll feel full longer and that’s a bonus when it comes to breakfast! I mean, who can concentrate with a grumbling belly at 10 am right?
When it comes to sugar, remember that ingredients are listed in descending weight order. This means that sugar and sugar derivatives like fructose, honey, barley malt syrup, and dextrose should ideally be listed as far down on the Ingredient list as possible.
Although some sugar in the diet is fine, most people today are still consuming way too much, putting them at greater risk for weight gain and chronic diseases like obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease. In an effort to reduce the severity of these health issues, the World Heart Organization (WHO) and American Heart Association (AHA) have each focused health guidelines on reducing daily sugar intake:
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends limiting added sugars to less than 10% of total calorie intake (preferably below 5%) in both adults and children. This would limit added sugars to a maximum of 50 grams per day for an adult eating 2,000 calories per day.
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends added sugars be limited to no more than 6 teaspoons (or 25 grams) of sugar per day for women, and no more than 9 teaspoons (or 38 grams) for men.
Keep sugar in check by sticking to the 5-gram-per-serving cut-off, and if you find the switch to a lesser sweetened cereal tough, try adding fresh berries to your breakfast bowl. This will add a natural sweetness with an extra boost of fiber!
Rule #2 – Watch your Serving Size!
Did you know that cereal serving sizes vary based on density? This means that the serving size of dense cereals like the granola and muesli-type are much smaller, i.e. 1/4 to 1/2 cup serving, than lighter and less dense “flake-type” cereals, i.e. 3/4 cup to 1 cup serving.
So if you’re not careful with your pour, you could easily be doubling or even tripling the calories, sugar, and sodium in your breakfast bowl… YIKES!
Bottom line, a healthy breakfast cereal does exist and it doesn’t have to be an overwhelming task…you just need to know what to look out for!