Cereal Confusion: 4 Purchasing Tips for Eating Well

Breakfast cereal is a quick and often nutritious breakfast and for some, and serves as an occasional lunch or dinner as well.  Even though cereal can be nutritious, there are some potential  consumer pitfalls to avoid when buying cereal if your goal is to eat well.  Consumers should be sure to purchase cereals with the following in mind:

  • Cereal should provide fiber.  Most Americans are not getting enough dietary http://www.dreamstime.com/-image17782414fiber and by choosing a cereal with fiber, you can improve your odds of meeting your fiber requirements.  Americans should be eating between 25-40 grams of fiber, so choosing a cereal with at least 3-5 grams of fiber is a good start.  Some cereals, such as the Kashi line, have 10 grams of fiber per serving.  Many fiber rich cereals are also made from the more nutrient dense whole grains, which offer a laundry list of additional nutrients aside from fiber.
  • Cereal should be limited in sugar.  One teaspoon of sugar is equal to 5 grams of sugar.  Be sure to check out the Nutrition Facts Panel on the box for this information.  A cereal should have less than 3 grams of sugar.
  • Cereals should be limited in fat.  Cereals are primarily complex carbohydrate.  If more than one to two grams of fat per serving are noted on the food label, the cereal company may have added additional fat to the product.  Cracklin Oat Bran has a hefty 7 grams of fat in 3/4 cup serving, which would be excessive for a cereal.
  • Cereals contain iron.  While many people need that iron fortification, seniors do not and should take stock of how much iron is in their selected cereal.  Look at the Nutrition Fact Panel, and note if the iron is 100%.  If so, it is too much, and a cereal with 0-25% iron should be selected.

Selecting a low sugar and fat cereal loaded with fiber is a good way to put your best nutritional foot forward for the day.

 

Is Life Sans Soda Pop Really Going to Slim Us Down?

Glass of Cola with a Straw in ItToday’s news coverage seems to be focusing relentlessly on the new Coca-Cola commercial which implies the company is part of the weight loss solution, and not the cause of the obesity problem.  The commercial highlights all the reduced sugar products offered by the company-noting many are reduced calorie, calorie free, or portioned into smaller mini-servings.  Critics of Coca-Cola note all the sugar cubes in various servings of soda pop.

Empty calories from any food source consumed in excess of a person’s energy requirements will promote obesity.  Critics of regular soda pop will add that it is easier to drink excess calories than consume them through food.  This may be a valid point, but it is not in and of itself a reason to point the finger at soda pop or the Coca Cola Company as the main reason we are a fat country!  Lest anyone come to the conclusion that I condone pop-I rarely drink it or advise my clients to consume it.  There are some important health related reasons to avoid soda pop, but you never hear your doctor or the media citing the reasons-you only hear that pop makes you fat.  Some of the other reasons to avoid pop include:

Dental decay.  Give a teenager with braces regular soda pop on a daily basis and it is a recipe for a lot of cavities.  I knew a teenage boy who would only drink regular soda pop (as opposed to diet) and when the braces came off, he had seventeen cavities!

Bone Loss.  Everyone needs to be concerned about their bones.  Osteoporosis occurs in both men and women and millions of people suffer from it.  Studies show that both diet and regular soda pop may weaken bones by increasing calcium excretion.

Poorer Quality of Diet.  When dairy products or beverages containing calcium (calcium fortified soy, almond, rice milk or orange juice) are replaced by soda pop of any kind, it decreases the likelihood that individual calcium requirements are being met. Food sources of calcium are also important sources of other important vitamins and minerals, so too much soda decreases the likelihood that overall nutritional requirements are being met.

Quality of Sleep.  Many brands and types of soda pop actually contain caffeine.  While many individuals are aware of this and intentionally have pop in the morning rather than coffee, many people are unaware that caffeine may be lurking in their soda pop.  Mountain Dew and some brands of root beer contain caffeine.

Right now, in this country, you have a choice to drink pop, not drink pop, or drink a reduced or calorie free version.  The choice is that of the individual, and the individual should take responsibility.  Coca cola has simply given the consumer a choice and people make their choices which have consequences. If anything, educating the public on energy requirements and how soda pop does or does not fit into a healthy eating regimen seems in order-not the media hype of criticizing a company.  We need to begin to take some personal responsibility for how we eat and how we take care of or bodies.

Do you think the media hype and criticism are warranted?

2nd Time Around, Mrs. Obama: High Hopes to “Impact the Quality of Food at the Grocery Store”

I have politics on my mind.  And, I am a dietitian/nutritionist (which you probably already know).   I watched both the Republican Convention and Democratic Convention.  As I reflected on some of the speeches, I thought I would look into what Michelle Obama would focus on if she becomes the First Lady for a second term.  In her first four years in the White House, she took on the noble cause of childhood obesity.  I figured she would opt for something pertaining to my field once again, and apparently this is the case.  She indicates she would focus on impacting the “quality” of food at the grocery store.  This is further clarified to mean she would focus on decreasing the fat, sugar, and sodium content of food found in our grocery stores across the United States.

This is an interesting idea.  How would this actually happen?  Will the government start regulating all companies to comply with a lesser amount of fat, sodium, and sugar in our food supply available to Americans?  We are a global economy, will imported foods be banned at large and small grocery stores if they do not comply with the fat, sodium, and sugar guidelines which will need to be implemented?

This also begs the obvious questions regarding access to less healthy foods.  Will the government ration or block our access to these foods?  Do you want to have these foods banned by the government, or do you want to make your own choices about what you eat?

I am not sure Mrs. Obama has the expertise to take on this challenge and this sounds like a logistical nightmare.  Would I be thrilled if Americans decreased fat, sugar, and sodium in their diet, well of course!  But what of education to learn to make the right choices?  I would like to see more energy focused in that arena rather than making more rules about what to eat.  In order to both implement and sustain a healthy dietary pattern, it starts with understanding what to eat and what eating patterns constitute a healthy diet.  I vote for more nutrition education and freedom to make one’s own food selection-hey, even I need a chocolate bar occasionally.  And ironically, what’s in a dark chocolate bar is not all bad from a nutritional standpoint.

What do you think?  Should the government change the food selection available at the grocery store through more regulation?