We all know that we should start our day with breakfast, and I tell my patients that nothing is easier than grabbing a bowl of cereal with low-fat milk or yogurt. Plus it's an excellent opportunity to get nutrients, such as fiber, calcium, and vitamin D, that might be more difficult to get in at other times of the day. But many people are overwhelmed when they walk down the cereal aisle.
The good news is that the nutrition profile of ready-to-eat cereals has markedly improved. A study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that whole grain is now a key ingredient in two out of three cereals, and, on average, fiber has increased 32 percent while sodium has decreased 14 percent and sugar has fallen 10 percent.
But just because whole grains are a key ingredient doesn’t guarantee that the cereal is a healthy choice. Forget the claims on the front of the box and immediately go to the nutrition fact label to look for the following:
1. All grains are 100% whole grains
2. Less than 200 calories per serving
3. At least 5 grams fiber per serving
4. More fiber than sugar
5. If sugar is high, check where it is coming from on the ingredients list. It's okay only if it's dried fruit instead of added sugar (including honey and evaporated cane juice).
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I also like to think of cereal as a vehicle to get even more healthy items into your breakfast meal. Try adding toppings such as berries, bananas, walnuts, almonds, flax seed, and chia seeds.
And also whoever said healthy cereal can only be enjoyed for breakfast? Many of my patients who work very long hours and don’t get home from the gym until practically bedtime enjoy a bowl for dinner—without any complaints from me.
What's your favorite cereal? Tell us in the comments below or @Shape_Magazine.