CEREAL– where do I begin!
Have you been to your local supermarket recently and seen the huge cereal section? It looks like a library of boxes doesn’t it? Cereal is one of the few foods that has an entire aisle dedicated to showcasing all of the different brands.
As a kid I ate Lucky Charms, Count Chocula and Frosted Flakes with extra sugar on top. I remember saving all of the marshmallows soaked with milk for the very end, then I would eat them and drink all of that sugary milk. That was healthy huh? Today, we have a lot more options for cereals including the originals from decades ago, and some newer “healthier” varieties. The question is whether or not any of them is a smart food choice not just for breakfast, but anytime. Let’s find out.
There are simply so many different cereals on the market even the pickiest of eaters will find one they like. Most cereals are fortified with a host of vitamins and minerals to boost their nutritional value and when combined with milk, provide a good source of calcium. They are generally low fat, and depending on the variety can provide some fiber. Plus, reacting to calls from health conscious parents, many companies have started supplying healthier options – high fiber, minimally processed and containing moderate fat and sugar… good news, right?
Unfortunately the backs of most cereal packets tell a different story…
Reading the ingredients on most cereal boxes can require a chemical dictionary, since they’re often highly processed which is never a good sign. All of the popular “cult classic” cereals (yes, that would be you Count Chocula!) are loaded with sugar, and while they may provide some nutrients from the infused vitamins and minerals, they’re also very calorie dense.
Most people I know, including myself, never eat the recommended serving sizes that range from ½ cup to 1 cup. And of course, the really good tasting “candy” varieties fall into the smaller serving size. Additionally, most people will use more milk then suggested on the box, which means they will be consuming way too many calories, in excess of 400 by my conservative estimates, and certainly way too much sugar.
Personally I’ve given up on conventional boxed cereal and have not had a bowl with milk in years. However I do use the healthier brands like Fiber One or Kashi as a snack when I’m on the road or have a case of the munchies. A few handfuls can provide great sources of fiber, protein, and complex carbohydrates while coming in numerous flavors and varieties.
In general – take the time to read the cereal boxes, and be sure to look for the lowest calorie amount per serving size and ingredient lists that don’t read like a chemistry manual. And don’t feel you HAVE to eat cereal in the morning. The entire “cereal for breakfast” is a tradition of culture, and has no basis for a healthy diet. You could eat chicken or fish for breakfast with brown rice for a healthy start – I have! And with oatmeal, eggs, and other “cleaner”, more nutritious options available for breakfast, when it comes to boxed cereal I have to say…