As you wander down the cereal aisle at the Super S the number of choices can seem overwhelming. You want to please your kids and buy one they will eat but also make sure it’s a nutritious one. And what about yourself? Cereal is not just for breakfast anymore and it’s certainly not just for kids. But with so many to choose from which is the best, not only in flavor and fun, but also for our health?
First, watch the serving size. Some cereals seem low in calories but that’s only because one serving is actually a half or three-quarters cup. For example, Cinnamon Toast Crunch has 130 calories in 3/4 cup, vs. Rice Krispies, with 120 calories in 1 1/4 cups cereal.
Also be mindful of the fiber content. Make sure that the first ingredient listed for the cereal is whole grain. All Bran has 10 grams of fiber in a half cup of cereal, compared to Fruit Loops, which has only 1 gram of fiber in a whole cup of cereal. Fiber helps with our digestive processes and also makes you feel fuller longer, keeping you from overeating or getting hungry in an hour. Adding fruit, like a banana or raisins, will boost fiber even more and deliver additional vitamins and minerals. A quarter cup of raisins counts as a full serving of fruit and boasts fiber, potassium and iron.
Cereal’s benefits aren’t limited to just boosting nutritional intake. New research published in March found that people who ate cereal daily at breakfast for six weeks and also for lunch two of those weeks, lost and average of 4 1/2 pounds without making any other changes in their diets. In another study, participants who had cereal for breakfast and as a replacement for either lunch or dinner for two weeks ate 640 fewer calories a day and lost an average of four pounds. Why? Fiber in cereal is filling so you feel less hungry. Plus the milk you pour on it has added slimming benefits. Its high protein content also keeps you feeling full and satisfied and the calcium in milk promotes fat breakdown and excretion from the body.
Some good high-fiber, low-sugar cereals to keep in your pantry are All Bran, Mini-Wheats, Multi-grain Cheerios and Wheat Chex. You say your kids won’t eat them? Even a sugar-sweetened cereal is fortified with vitamins and, when combined with fruit and milk, is a nutrition bargain. But to boost fiber and reduce sugar, use this trick that works for many parents: combine your child’s favorite cereal with one of the higher-fiber, lower-sugar ones.
It should be obvious by now that cereal can contribute to a healthy and happy beginning, or ending, to your day!
Heather Golubski is a May 2009 Kansas State University nutrition graduate and began her Master’s and Dietetic Internship at Texas Woman’s University this fall. She worked as Neva’s assistant this summer and created her website at www.nevacochranrd.com.