Did you know cereal is a healthy nutrient dense carbohydrate? Selecting a good breakfast cereal means you will be providing complex carbohydrates to efficiently fuel your brain and body. A good quality breakfast cereal should have fiber and not much sugar. I like to see a breakfast cereal with at least 3 grams of dietary fiber per serving. Speaking of “serving”, how big is your portion? Most people actually do not mentally note the serving size on the Nutrition Facts Label and are rather shocked to find out, for instance, that a serving of Frosted Mini Wheats is just 21 pieces! It’s ok to double your serving size, but this will be an issue if you are trying to control your calories along with other nutrients.
Thumbs Up to Fiber. Fiber aids digestion, stabilizes blood glucose levels, aids in blood cholesterol reduction, and can offer a feeling of satiety to actually aid in weight reduction! That’s a lot of benefits from a bowlful of fiber rich cereal.
Thumbs Down to Sugar. Did you know that every 5 grams of sugar yields one teaspoon of sugar? So, that fruity loop cereal your kids love which contains 15 grams of sugar contains 3 teaspoons of sugar per serving. That assumes your serving size is what is noted on the box. Pour a second bowl and you double your sugar consumption along with the calories.
Thumbs Down to Fat. A cereal is mostly complex carbohydrate and should not have much fat in it. Some whole grain cereals will have a natural small amount of fat, but if the fat content per serving of the cereals gets too high (over 3 grams), then the assumption is fat has been added in production. A classic example of a cereal with excessive fat per serving is Kellogg’s Crackling Oat Bran which contains 7 grams of fat per 3/4 cup serving.
Thumbs Up OR Down to Iron. If you are a female of child bearing age, or a growing child, then enriched breakfast cereal is an excellent source of dietary iron. For everyone else, beware! Males and older women do not need the large amount of iron in cereal. Too much iron is constipating and also an issue if you have a common genetic condition called hereditary iron overload. If you have been paying attention to the iron content of cereal, you know it is very difficult to find a cereal without iron. In fact, many popular lower sugar and high fiber cereals are also loaded with iron. For instance Wheat Chex (6 grams fiber) contains over 14 grams of iron. Cheerios contains 8 grams of iron. This is too much iron for men and older women who only need 8 mgs. per day and will be getting additional iron in the diet through other foods.
Cereals with less iron include:
- Kashi cereals range from virtually no iron up to 2 mg depending on the variety selected
- Puffins have less than 1 mg
- Cooked oatmeal has less than 2 mg
- Fiber One has 4.5 mg
- Frosted Cheerios have 4.5 mg
- Basic 4 has 4.5 mg
- Flax Plus Multibran Flakes has less than 2 mg
- All Cascadian Farm Organic cereals (my new “find”), have less than 2 mg iron
Enjoy your cereal for breakfast, snacks, and maybe even dinner, but make sure you choose one that is right for your health.