The cereal aisle is full of surprises. No, not the fun toys hiding inside the
box. Important nutritional information moms may not know about. Dietician,
Kristi Spence, explains what to watch out for.
What’s in the Name?
Does the name or brand of a cereal sometimes sway you toward thinking or
assuming that something is healthy? Let’s take a look at these 4 types of
ORIGINAL vs MULTI-GRAIN
FROSTED vs PEANUT BUTTER MULTI-GRAIN
· They might sound healthier, but multigrain cheerios have 6 times the
sugar of original cheerios. At 6g of sugar per serving, they are still not
considered high in sugar; but the name may have made you think that they
were “healthier” than original.
· Now let’s look at Frosted vs. Peanut Butter Multi-Grain Cheerios. When
we look at calories, fiber, and sugar, these have the same nutrient profile.
The names would seem to indicate otherwise.
· Take Home: Be an informed shopper, look beyond the name and do a
quick glance of the nutrition facts to see what you are really getting.
Is it all about sugar?
We hear a lot about the amount of sugar in common breakfast cereals, and
while making an effort to limit the sugar per serving to <8g is good practice, we need to look at the big picture. Here is a possibly surprising example. Let's compare Cocoa Krispies with Lucky Charms. From a nutrition-profile, Lucky Charms wins out - marginally more fiber and less sugar. As a general rule, whole-grain based cereals with whole oat or whole wheat flour will have more fiber per serving than rice-based cereal. Now let's throw Kashi Go Lean Crunch into the mix - a surprising cereal to have in this group, but it's presence here is based on sugar. At 13g per serving, the sugar profile is VERY similar to that of Lucky Charms, but when we look at the rest of the cereal picture we see that Kashi actually has a lot to offer.
Take Home: Don’t make choices solely based on the sugar content
of the cereal. Aim for <8g per serving. If that is not in the cards for your kids, find varieties that add other nutritional benefits and always add milk or yogurt. Cereal is often a vehicle for nutrient-dense dairy.
What do we do about Label Claims?
Many cereals are “loud.” They claim lots of health benefits (i.e., lowers
cholesterol, no cholesterol, may help you lose weight, high in fiber, 14
vitamins and minerals). These claims are alluring, but are they accurate? Look
beyond the claims to find out what the cereal really has to offer. Often the
science these claims are based on is sound, but how will this particular cereal
help you achieve those goals?
Take Home: Look to the label to help determine whether or not this
cereal is a good choice and part of an overall balanced diet. Aim for <8g sugar per serving at least 3g of fiber per serving, and whole grains to be the #1 ingredient.
. Determine what your kids like
. Experiment with a couple different varieties and see if you can reach a
. Perhaps every other week you can switch things up
. Maybe the “treat” cereals become just that, occasional foods but not
. Top healthier, blander cereals, with a splash of maple syrup and some fruit.
(adding a small amount of sugar allows you to control how much! 1 tsp of
maple syrup is 4g sugar.)
. If you have a child who will only eat sugar cereals or not eat breakfast,
something is better than nothing. Remember that kids are usually adding
milk, the protein helps slow digestion and calm theglycemic response of the
sugar. If you can get them out the door with a banana or a few apple slices,
or whip up a quick smoothie, you will add some fiber as well.
. Constantly revisit the issue and ask your kids to play a role in the shopping
and decision making process.
For kids especially, any breakfast is better than NO breakfast.
· Adding milk gives protein and closes nutrient gap
· Brain Food
· Kids who eat breakfast tend to do better in school and have an easier
time maintaining a healthy weight.