How to choose a healthy breakfast cereal

Walking down the cereal aisle can be overwhelming with all the options available and different cereals claiming to be healthy. Here are some tips for finding the best cereals for your family:
SUGAR

  • Look at the Nutrition Facts panel on the side of the cereal box (ignore any health claims made on the front of the box), which lists the grams of sugar contained.
  • Find the serving size. If a cereal says it has 10 grams of sugar and a serving size of 30 grams, that means the cereal is one-third sugar.

colorful cereal bowl

FIBER AND WHOLE GRAIN

  • Be careful about cereals that boast it is “High in Fiber!” if they are also high in sugar. If a cereal is basically 30% sugar, it doesn’t matter much if there is some added fiber.
  • Be careful about front of the box advertisement that says “Made with whole grain,” because that can mean made with very little whole grain.
  • Instead, look at the actual ingredient list. The first and second ingredient should be whole grain, like whole grain wheat or whole grain oats. Typically, if you see rice or rice flour, it’s not as good for you.

OTHER THINGS TO WATCH OUT FOR:

  1. Fake fruits: The “strawberries” in cereals like Strawberry Mini-Wheats are most likely a mixture of food dyes and gelatin, and not real fruit. The “raspberries” in a lot of cereals are more likely to have more salt than raspberry powder. Look for real fruit in the ingredients list, or top your cereal with sliced fresh fruit like bananas or strawberries instead.
  2. Yogurt clusters: Yogurt sounds like it should be healthy, but yogurt coating is mostly oil and sugar and has no health benefits.
  3. “Slimming” cereals: Some cereals claim you can drop a pant size if you eat a bowl for every meal. Most cereals can’t claim to cause weight loss, and isn’t a balanced and healthy diet to only eat cereal.
  4. Low in calories: Watch out for how large the serving size is! If the serving size is ¼ cup, think about how much you fill your bowl—it’s very unlikely you’re only eating ¼ cup!

Adapted from “How to choose a healthy breakfast cereal” at CNN Health. http://www.cnn.com/2012/07/06/health/time-healthy-breakfast-cereal


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Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP)

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