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HOW TO Pick a Whole Grain Cereal

August 12, 2010

Ever since I took a graduate nutrition course, I’ve been very diligent about crafting a balanced diet. Balance is having the proper proportion of food from each of the food groups.

It turns out that my biggest problem is getting enough from the grains group – of which at least 50% should be whole grains. The easiest place to make that happen is at breakfast.

Unfortunately, my cereal of choice was selected for its low sugar and calorie content. In fact, when I did some research today I found my beloved Special K grouped with the ‘naughty’ cereals like Cookie Crisp (ie the most delicious “food” of all time).

So, it’s back to the cereal aisle, but this time with some guidelines to find a healthier choice:

1. Whole Grains: The type of grain is usually the first item in the ingredient list. Look for whole grain, whole wheat, brown rice or bran. “Enriched” means the grain is refined.

2. Fiber: Fiber content will be high in cereals made from whole grains or bran. Look for around 3-5g of fiber per serving.

3. Micronutrients: A lot of cereals are fortified and this is a great way to bank a third of the RDA for many nutrients. Look for a long list of vitamins in minerals in the 30%-40% of daily value range.

4. Sugar: Added sugar can be disguised in the ingredient list so look at the nutritional guide. A good rule of thumb is to keep it under 10g of sugar per serving.

5. Fats: Cereals are typically not a significant source of fat – they primarily rely on sugar for flavoring. However, it’s not a bad idea to skim the list of ingredients. If it contains saturated fat, you’re better off leaving it on the shelf.

Good choices: Total, Cheerios, Fiber One, Shredded Wheat (including the frosted kind!), Grape Nuts, and Wheaties all fulfill these requirements. Cooked grains like oatmeal and quinoa are great choices as well if you can take a little time to prepare them.

Here’s a good comparison list of nutritional content that you can use to find a few options to try. I’m going to sample a few cereals before I decide on a new go-to box.

What do you usually have for breakfast? What’s the most important to you in a cereal – nutrition or taste?

photo: pauldwaite

One Comment leave one →
  1. August 27, 2010 11:34 am

    Women’s Health has picked up the topic as well. Take the healthy cereal quiz –

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