Still enjoying the same cereal you did as a kid? Well, little did you know that you might be consuming 16,000 calories from sugar a year just from your daily breakfast. And you thought starting your day with breakfast was the healthy thing to do!
A comprehensive analysis by the Environmental Working Group of 1,556 cereals, including 181 marketed directly to children, revealed that most pack in so much sugar that an individual eating an average serving (which was found to be larger than the serving size listed on the package) of a typical children’s cereal would consume more than 10 pounds of sugar a year from that source alone. [Tweet this shocking fact!] Some contain 50 percent sugar by weight. The EWG went as far as stating that in some instances a typical serving can have as much sugar as three Chips Ahoy! cookies. Sounds more like dessert than breakfast to me.
Furthermore, 40 of the cereals in this analysis exceeded 60 percent of the daily amount of sugar suggested by health agencies and organizations. Sadly enough the EWG also found evidence that promotional labeling on cereal boxes is designed to distract consumers from focusing on the unhealthy sugar content by making claims that the product provides important nutrients such as “excellent source of vitamin D” or “good source of fiber.”
So what should we do? Ban cereal from our households? I don’t think that is necessary. I think we need to look at the big picture: A bowl of cereal in itself can have other attributes. First and foremost what goes with the cereal matters, i.e., lowfat milk that is packed with nine essential nutrients, including protein and calcium, and many nutritious toppings such as fresh fruit, slivered almonds, chia seeds, and flaxseeds, to name a few. Also most cereals are fortified with iron and vitamin D, nutrients that many women don’t generally get enough of in their diet.
When choosing a cereal for breakfast, I suggest you follow these easy guidelines:
1. Grams of fiber should be greater than or equal to grams of sugar since fiber is ideal for satiety.
2. There are minimum 3 grams of fiber per serving.
3. Read the label carefully; don’t focus on the “health” claims, and look for where the sugar is coming from, i.e. added sugar versus dried fruit, the latter being preferred.
4. Remember if you don’t add some protein and healthy fat to your cereal, you will likely be hungry an hour or so later.
If you are used to sugary cereal, try mixing it with a low-sugar cereal to start with, gradually increasing the proportion from high to low until you no longer miss the sweeter one. And if that doesn’t work, simply limit sweets the rest of day. In the long run, any breakfast, in my opinion, is better than no breakfast.