Three tips for starting your morning off right with a healthy breakfast cereal
Much like walking through a minefield, traversing your Scottsdale supermarket’s cereal aisle can be a deceptively dangerous prospect. Though some choices may seem safe at first, they can quickly reveal themselves to be the opposite, blowing up your diet with excessive amounts of sugar and calories.
As a patient of medical weight management, your food choices need to be as prudent as possible to maximize the effectiveness of your weight loss program. Many Americans see cereal as their go-to option for a quick morning meal, but many breakfast cereals amount to little more than candy swimming in milk.
Breakfast is still the most important meal, helping your body refuel and prepare for the day ahead. Because most cereals are loaded with added sugar or present bogus health claims on their labels, you may be tempted to swear off cereal forever, but knowing how to find the right kind can help you keep cereal in your morning routine without the guilt or an late morning sugar crash. Here are three tips for finding the perfect breakfast cereal.
Tip 1: Ignore the front of the box and go straight for the nutritional panel on the side.
Though many cereals will make health claims on their front panels, a look at the product’s nutritional facts will help you get a better idea of what that cereal really contains. Don’t let yourself be swayed by assertions of high whole grain content—the amount of fiber a cereal provides will do little for your body if it’s also loaded with sky-high sugar levels.
Look for the product’s sugar content and compare it to the overall serving size. In Trix, for example, the serving size is 32 grams, but each serving contains 10 grams of sugar, meaning that nearly one-third of the cereal is sugar. Despite the fact that Trix offers 12 grams of whole grains per serving and some amount of the vitamins it’s fortified with, those nutritional tidbits will do little to negate the damage of this sugar content.
Don’t be tricked into thinking that any product is as healthy as it says it is. Marketers and manufacturers will often try to beef up sales of their unhealthy products with phony claims, or get parents to buy their kids sugary cereals because they contain fiber. It may be shaped like fruit and contain whole grains, but that doesn’t make it healthy.
Tip 2: Look for 100 percent real whole grains.
Though whole grain content won’t help if a cereal is full of sugar, it’s still one of the most important factors in choosing a healthy cereal. When you check the nutritional facts, the first and second ingredients listed should be whole grains like “whole grain wheat” or “whole grain oats.”
Look for cereals that have 100% whole grains or are high in other nutritious ingredients like bran, nuts, fruit or soy. Many cereals (like Trix) highlight the “grams” of whole grain they contain, but again, you need to compare this to the overall serving size. If the grams of whole grains and the grams of the serving size are close, that means the cereal is nearly 100 percent whole grain.
Tip 3: Ignore phony fiber.
Fiber is an unquestionably important part of our diets, helping us feel full faster and serving many important functions in our bodies. However, not all fiber is created equal. When looking for a cereal with good fiber content, your best bet is to seek out the whole grains that carry intact fibers and real health benefits.
Some cereals add isolated fibers like oat fiber, soy fiber and corn fiber, which are removed from the grain and made into a powder. These fibers have no proven health benefits and may serve as little more than opportunities for cereal companies to boast about healthy attributes that their cereals don’t actually have. When picking the perfect cereal, ignore claims of fiber content and simply look for nutrition labels that definitively show a product is low in sugar and high in whole grains.
The cereal aisle is full of treacherously unhealthy options that are sure to wreak havoc on your weight loss diet. However, by ignoring bogus claims and looking directly at a product’s nutritional facts, you can make your cereal decisions as healthy as possible. As with any product, don’t take claims at face value—see for yourself what that product is really made of and base your decision on that. If in doubt, ask your weight loss doctor or nutritionist for some healthy breakfast ideas.