For super-busy mornings, cereal can be a convenient and nutritious option but there are many misconceptions about which cereals are actually healthy and which ones are simply claiming to be. Many cereal brands that seem healthy, actually are filled with sugar. Keep reading along for some tips on how to choose a healthy cereal.
Beware of Sugar
Sugar seems to be the enemy of all diets, and starting your day with a heaping serving can set up cravings for later in the day. When looking for a healthy cereal option, look for one that has less than 6 grams of sugar per serving and at least 3 grams of fiber. Fiber serves to keep the body feeling fuller longer, and is also great for natural digestion.
Spice It Up!
It may be tough to break your unhealthy cereal habit, especially if you have been eating cereals loaded with sugar without being aware of it. You don’t have to suffer through a bland bowl! Spice it up with a sprinkle of cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice, or even a drizzle of pure honey. You can add some natural sweetness (as well as some healthy nutrients) with fresh or frozen berries or a few slices of banana.
Combine Your Favorite Cereals
Another way to liven up your breakfast cereals is to combine them! As you are moving towards healthier cereal choices, don’t be afraid to mix in a little of your old favorite with some of a healthier cereal to train your taste buds to crave less sugary choices in the morning. If you wean out the sugary cereal over time instead of all at once, you won’t suffer as many sugar cravings.
Check the Ingredients
Don’t be fooled by false claims on the front of the box that use buzzwords designed to make consumers think the cereal is actually healthier than it is. While some claim to be “made from whole grains” or “a good source of vitamins,” they aren’t really telling you much. Instead of being drawn in by those buzzwords, check the list of ingredients. You want a cereal that lists whole wheat, wheat bran or whole grains as the first ingredients. If it simply lists “wheat” or enriched wheat,” pass on that box.
Think Beyond the Box!
Cereals can be used in trail mixes or as toppings for yogurt parfaits for a little crunch. But be warned – yogurt is another “healthy” breakfast that can often be packed with sugar. Check your labels and look for varieties that are as close to a pure source as possible. Greek yogurts are a great choice and plain varieties without sugar can be livened up with fresh fruit or a sprinkle of cereal. Be wary of granola as a cereal choice or topping – while it’s up there on the list of foods that people consider healthy, varieties can be loaded with calories and sugar.
If you like your cereal hot, oatmeal is a great choice. Once again, steer clear of processed packages or “instant flavored” varieties and instead opt for steel-cut or slow-cooking oats that are nothing more than just oats. You can top a warm bowl with fresh fruit, a little honey and some cereal for crunch as well.
Don’t Forget the Milk
Finally, when looking for the perfect milk to go along with your cereal, choose calcium-rich, low-fat varieties such as skim or 1 %. Or think outside the gallon and try almond milk, coconut milk, cashew milk or rice milk. Be sure to look for unsweetened varieties.
All Bran, Life, Kix, Mini Wheats, Cherrios, Puffins and Kashi Heart to Heart are some of our favorite cereals to kick-start the day.
Now that you’ve got the cereal box basics down try adding some of these tips into your morning routine or share how you choose healthy cereal options in the comments!