When it comes to choosing a healthy breakfast cereal, keep these simple tips top of mind when navigating the cereal aisle at the grocery store.
But first, a video of my little grocery shopper Joe when he was 18 months old, choosing his own cereal. What a ham!
If you notice one thing about the recipes on my website, it’s that the breakfast section is far from robust. I’ve shared time and time again that I’m not a huge breakfast eater, and my boys prefer Eggos to Mom’s homemade pancakes. But something funny happened between 1-2 years of age that I noticed in both of my boys: they started asking for cereal at breakfast! This wasn’t something they learned from Mom and Dad, and in fact, I think it was something they learned from running through the cereal aisle at Kroger. But now that they know they can enjoy a bowl of cereal for breakfast or an afternoon snack, Mom has had to do her research as to what constitutes a healthy breakfast cereal.
Study after study confirms that eating breakfast is beneficial to your health, your brainpower and your mood— no matter what your age. A good breakfast is one that’s filling, tasty and nutritious, and doesn’t take long to prepare [in my opinion]. Cereal can do all that, if you choose wisely. Cereal offers a prime opportunity to start your day by fulfilling a big chunk of your whole grain and fiber goals. And if you enjoy your cereal by adding milk, you are adding a source of protein to your breakfast meal, which helps keep you fuller longer.
So before you limit the amount or type of cereal when faced with all the choices in the grocery store, here are a few things I keep in mind when choosing a healthy breakfast cereal:
Watch the sugar. When viewing the nutrition facts label on the back of a cereal box, look for a cereal that has 5 grams of sugar per serving [or less]. Now I’m not saying to STOP EATING a particular cereal if you have a favorite [Chocolate Chex like ME] which has well more than 5 grams of sugar per serving. I just wouldn’t consider that an everyday food. Unless you are 40 weeks pregnant and craving Chocolate Chex. More power to you!!!
Go for fiber. Again, go to that nutrition facts label and look for the fiber line. Any cereal that has 3-5 grams of fiber per serving is likely a good choice! You can also top your cereal with nuts or fresh fruit for a little extra fiber as well…. Something I like to do with a bowl of Cheerios!
Read over the ingredient list. This trick is especially important if artificial flavors and colors are a no-no on your list. For me, I’m conscious of them and have noticed many cereal manufacturers are now labeling the front of their cereal boxes to let shoppers know their produce does NOT contain artificial flavors or ingredients. If you do NOT see this type of wording on the box and the ingredient list has lots of numbers and colors in it, then you might want to reconsider adding it to your cart.
Limit the sodium. Now I don’t usually take a bite of cereal and think, “wow, this tastes salty!” But sodium is a common ingredient in packaged foods for flavor and preservation. To keep your daily sodium in check, look for a cereal that has less than 300mg per serving [on that nutrition facts label again!].
Moral of the story, check the nutrition facts label and look at sodium, fiber, and sugar. Also, familiarize yourself with the ingredient list and look for words like whole wheat or whole grains. And don’t stress over a bowl or two of your favorite that doesn’t include any of the above. Life’s too short not to enjoy a bowl of Chocolate Chex every now and then— take it from the woman who ate a bowl multiple times a week during her pregnancies!