How to Choose the Healthiest Cereals

If you’re not good at making decisions, looking at all of the cereals to choose from at the grocery store can be challenging. The good news is that your options are narrowed drastically when you’re searching for a healthy cereal–most of what’s on the shelves is full of sugars and trans fats. You really have to know what key ingredients you’re looking for to select a healthy cereal. Here are some tips to make your cereal shopping excursion easier.

Sugar Shock

Sugar seems to be a key ingredient in many breakfast cereals. It’s obvious in some varieties (like the ones aimed at children), but less so in others. No one is going to mistaken Fruit Loops or Lucky Charms for health food. However, some so-called “healthy” varieties contain more sugar than you’re aware. Honey Nut Cheerios, for example, contains 11 grams of sugar, and Raisin Bran, which is commonly thought of as a healthy cereal variety, contains 18 grams of sugar. A healthy diet begins with trying to limit your intake of refined sugar. It’s recommended that a person on a 1600 calorie diet eat no more than 24 grams. The Raisin Bran alone almost reaches your daily intake limit! Try to stick to varieties with fewer than five grams of sugar. Plain Cheerios, Fiber One and original Shredded Wheat are all great options.

Find the Fiber

Fiber helps keep us from feeling hungry throughout the day. Therefore, it makes sense to eat a breakfast that is high in fiber to curtail any snacking throughout your morning. There are plenty of cereals out there high in fiber, and most of them are the cereals that contain lower amounts of sugar. Generally speaking, a cereal made with whole grains will have a higher fiber content. Consumed with some low fat milk with some fruit on top, you have a well-rounded breakfast. The combination of protein (from the milk) with the complex carbohydrates (from the cereal and fruit) will kick your metabolism into gear the very first thing in the morning. Not sure which cereals contain the most fiber? Look on the label. Look for cereals that contain five or more grams of fiber.

Check the Ingredients List

As with any food, the shorter the ingredients list, and less scientific and factory-engineered the ingredient sounds, the better. The first ingredient on the cereal list should be whole grain. If it’s not the first, it should be in the top three. If you see “partially hydrogenated” anywhere on the list, it’s probably not a healthy cereal. And, of course, sugar shouldn’t be anywhere near the top of the list–if included at all. Remember, the simpler the list of ingredients, the better. No sense in purchasing a cereal that’s loaded with all kinds of junk when you could just as easily eat a bowl of oatmeal with fruit.

If you need a starting point, Post Original Shredded Wheat and Kashi brand cereals are all good options. Whatever you choose, look for something that is high in fiber, low in sugar and low in ingredients.

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  • Dr. Josh Axe

    I have to disagree with you a little on this post. Cereal for breakfast can be dangerous because it often doesn’t fill us up and can be hard to digest. Most cereal is made with wheat which contains gluten(hard to digest). Other cereals like granola have oats as the main ingredient which can be very inflammatory, not to mention the sugar added in the dried fruit. Aside from the granola, we are topping our cereal with highly pasteurized milk.

    All in all, try making something delicious like a grainless granola for breakfast. It contains nuts and seeds which are high in protein, fiber, minerals, and vitamins. In turn, it will leave us more satisfied and give us the nutrients our body needs!