A Delicious Guide to Healthy Cereals

  • Why Cereal?

    If nutritionists had their way, skipping breakfast would be illegal. Not only is it unhealthy, it stands in the way of proper nutrition. And proper nutrition is the key to staying alert, staying awake and excelling at school (or work). All it takes is one bowlful of hearty grains, nuts and fiber to seriously limit your risks of heart disease and diabetes. “The reason to have a bowl of cereal would be ideally to kick start your day with proper nutrients,” says Keri Gans, a New York-based nutritionist, whose book, “The Small Change Diet,” arrives in stores next spring. “I always say the person who skips breakfast misses an opportunity.” MainStreet tapped Sari Greaves, a registered dietician and spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association, and Gans to help you dump the breakfast bad boys for good.  Photo Credit: Horia Varlan
    Fiber, fiber, fiber!
  • Fiber, fiber, fiber!

    The best thing healthy cereals have going for them is fiber. It fills you up so you aren’t hungry later, and it keeps your heart going strong.“Most Americans don’t get around 25 grams of fiber a day,” says Gans, “but having cereal for breakfast is one way to assure you’re going to meet your needs.” Americans also need at least three grams of fiber per serving, says Greaver. “A high fiber cereal will have five grams or more with less sugar. But eight grams or more for a cold cereal is what we’re looking for.” When inspecting a box, check the nutrition panel for the amount of fiber versus the sugar. “Try to eliminate added sugar in cereals,” says Greaver. And, “if indeed the fiber is higher than the sugar and you have at least a minimum of five grams of fiber,” says Gans, “then the cereal’s going to be a healthy choice.” Photo Credit: laffy4k
    Heart-Healthy Whole Grains
  • Heart-Healthy Whole Grains

    “You want to make sure you’re getting the whole grain package,” says Greaves. So when you shop, always look for the whole grains stamp. “It means that a food might deliver a whole or half a grain per serving, but the recommendation is to get three servings a day,” Greaves says. “The minimum daily requirement of wheat is 16 grams.” Gans agrees: “The perfect cereal would come from 100% whole grains,” she says. “I would like to see 100% whole grain or whole grain oats … maybe brown rice. It’s for heart health and fiber.” Photo Credit: jon smith 'una nos lucror'
    The Perfect Bowl
  • The Perfect Bowl

    “For the individual who needs to watch their calorie intake,” says Gans, you’ll want to pour exactly one cup of cereal, nothing more. Greaves recommends keeping your bowl under 200 calories. Photo Credit: orangachang
    Best Cereal for Kids
  • Best Cereal for Kids

    Kids are bombarded by advertisements touting sugary, unhealthy cereals. But until government efforts to prevent childhood obesity come to fruition, parents should steer their kids away from the sugary rush of cereals like Fruity Pebbles or Cocoa Puffs – both pack highly undesirable saturated fats, which can lead to clogged arteries and weight gain. Also watch out for ingredients that are high in saturated fat (it raises cholesterol) such as palm kernel oil. You’ll usually spot it in yogurt coated cereals, like Kellogg’s Yogurt Bran. Parents’ mantra should be “whole grain, low sugar, high fiber,” says Gans. When you’re shopping for your kids, toss Puffins or Cheerios in the cart. Both provide a tasty crunch and they are equally rich in fiber. Photo Credit: navats
    Best Cereal for Baby Boomers
  • Best Cereal for Baby Boomers

    If you’re in love with Kellogg’s Raisin Bran, which packs 19 grams of unsavory sugar, try Kashi GoLean instead. “Most cereals are not high in protein,” says Gans, but “the protein will keep you fuller longer.” GoLean is a cereal that works well for boomers because its protein “will hold them much longer.” It’s also very high in fiber. Photo Credit: mudman799
    Best Cereal for Granola Lovers
  • Best Cereal for Granola Lovers

    “If you like things like nuts, and flax and sesame seeds, look for whole grain quality,” says Greaves, “because those things can drive up the calorie level.” To keep your waistline in check, Greaves recommends starting out with a low calorie cereal and “dressing it up yourself, with a level tablespoon of ground nuts or seeds, or fresh fruit.” A quarter of a cup of Bear Naked Granola, for example, might be too high in calories. Downsize instead by sprinkling “a granola on oatmeal or yogurt,” says Greaves, “and use a higher fiber cereal to pour into your bowl.” Or try going half and half. Greaves recommends trying “half with raisin bran mixed in with 50% of an oats cereal or a total whole grain.” Or just opt for “something low in sugar, but that still has whole grain value,” she says. We like Kashi Heart to Heart Oaks Flakes. Photo Credit: norwichnuts
    Best Cereal for Frosted Mini Wheat Lovers
  • Best Cereal for Frosted Mini Wheat Lovers

    “Frosted Mini Wheats get a stamp of approval for being whole wheat and whole grain,” says Greaves, “but pair it with skim milk and do 50/50 with a cereal that’s less than eight grams of sugar.” A good one to try is Natural Fiber 1. Photo Credit: MSVG
    Top It Off
  • Top It Off

    If your cereal still doesn’t taste up to snuff, try topping it off with one of Gans’s recommendations:
    • Ground flax (“The health benefits of the omega 3 fatty acids are great.”)
    • Fresh fruit, like berries or a banana.
    • Healthy, fatty nuts like crushed walnuts or slivered almonds.
    Finally, don’t forget the milk. That protein boost is key. Photo Credit: The Busy Brain
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