With so many options and so many conflicting interests, it’s not easy to know how to choose healthy cereal… fiber? Sugar? Raisins? Flakes? There’s so much to think about! But my dear, I can help. After loads of research, and a little taste-testing, I can shed some light on choosing a healthy cereal. Here are 8 tips for how to choose healthy cereal. Grab your favorite bowl and a big spoon, and let’s go!
1. Ignore the Front of the Box
The front of a box of cereal can be so misleading! First there’s the name. So many of them say “bran” which we automatically think of as “healthy,” even when, in fact, they’re not healthy at all. Plus, the front photo might show fruit in the cereal, when it’s been added, not included inside. Your best bet is to ignore the front of the box, and focus your attention on the ingredients and nutrition label.
2. Check the Labels… Both Labels!
I just mentioned the ingredients and nutrition label on the box. Both of these are important. Know that the ingredients are listed in order of content… in other words, the ingredient that’s used the most is listed first, and the ingredient that’s used the least is at the end. If you want to choose a healthy cereal, look for one that has a whole grain listed first, not a sugar. Also, if you have food allergies, pay special attention to the allergen warnings, which are also listed near the ingredients.
3. Know What a Serving is
You’d be surprised how small a serving of cereal actually is. For most brands, a serving is less than a cup… but when we pour bowls of cereal, we’re often pouring twice that amount. It’s okay to eat more than one serving at a time, just make sure you’re considering that when you’re wondering how to choose healthy cereal… in other words, double the calories, the sugar, the fiber…
4. Look for Fiber
So many of us don’t get the fiber we need in our diets, but choosing a healthy cereal can help us boost that fiber number. According to the Mayo Clinic, women under 51 ought to get 25 grams of fiber per day. Look for a breakfast cereal with 5 grams of fiber per serving, consider that you’ll probably double that serving size, and you’re already got 10 of those 25 grams of fiber covered!
5. Are There Extras?
How to choose healthy cereal that also tastes good? Check the box to see if there are extras inside, like a little dried fruit (like raisins or cranberries or dates), because they can add flavor, texture, and nutrition. The dried fruit can make all the difference between a cereal that tastes like bland bird food, and cereal you might enjoy eating. Keep in mind that adding fruit may also add a little sugar, but that’s fine.
6. Do the Math
Here’s another tip for choosing a healthy cereal, one that may require a piece of scrap paper. Keeping in mind that less than 25% of our calories ought to come from sugar, write down the grams of sugar in your serving of cereal, and the total number of calories. Now, multiply your sugar grams by 4 (because there are 4 calories in each gram of sugar), then divide that number by the total number of calories, and multiple THAT number by 100. The number you get is the percentage of calories in that serving of cereal that comes from sugar. If that number is higher than 25, then you need to pass on that cereal, and keep looking. Here’s an example: if there are 12 grams of sugar in my serving of Frosted Flakes, and 120 calories overall, the math looks like this: 12 x 4 = 48, 48 ? 120 = 0.4; 0.4 x 100 = 40%. Wow, that’s a lot of sugar! Almost half the calories in this cereal are from sugar, so it’s NOT a healthy choice, no matter what Tony the Tiger says.
7. Think about Organic
If you’re worried about pesticides and other nasty chemicals when you’re choosing a healthy cereal, consider organic brands, and look for the USDA “Organic” seal on the box. It’s still important to look at the nutrition label where sugar’s concerned, but overall, organic cereals tend to be higher in fiber, and lower in un-natural chemical content.
8. Do Consider Taste
What good is it to choose a healthy cereal if it’s so bland or icky you’ll never eat it? Consider taste, too when you’re choosing a cereal. Request samples from manufacturers, or just gamble on a big box that meets your healthiness criteria, and see what you think.
Now that you know how to choose healthy cereal, breakfast will be a breeze, and won’t wreck your diet! Do you have a favorite cereal, and if so, how does it stack up on our little health test? Do tell!
Top Image Source: weheartit.com