The scoop on cereal

When people ask me what they should eat for breakfast, my #1 choice is always cereal.

Cereal

As a breakfast option, cereal can be a quick, convenient, nutritious and extremely versatile food to eat in the morning.

It’s a great way to get energy, iron and calcium (from the milk). Let’s not forget fiber. If you ever pay attention to the nutrition label on a cereal box you may have noticed that not all cereals are created equal.

From Frosted to Fruity to Two Scoops of Raisins, there is certainly no shortage of breakfast cereals out there. Because of this, it can be frustrating to know which brands offer more nutrition when you’re facing an entire supermarket aisle stacked with so many different choices.

So, what should you be looking for in a cereal? Here are five tips to help you choose wisely:

#1 – Choose Iron-Enriched: If you eat little or no red meat (the best source of dietary iron), choosing cereals that have been fortified or enriched with iron (at least 25 per cent) can be a handy way to boost your intake of iron.

If you’re an active person or athlete, iron is particularly important, especially if you feel tired and fatigue easily during exercise.

Iron is the part of the red blood cell that carries oxygen from your lungs to your muscles so you can understand how health can be affected if this mineral is lacking in the diet.

Drink a glass of orange juice or eat fruit rich in vitamin C (like orange, grapefruit and strawberries), along with your cereal.

This will enhance your body’s ability to absorb the iron in cereal as the body often poorly absorbs it when eaten alone.

#2 – Choose Whole-Grain and High-Fiber cereals: This includes All-Bran, Bran Flakes, Fruit & Fiber, Corn Bran, Raisin Bran, Oat Bran, Grape-Nuts, Shredded Wheat and a multitude of other cereals.

If you’re not sure whether the cereal you eat is high in fiber, refer to the ‘Nutrition Facts’ label on the side of the cereal box. Dietary Fiber is listed about halfway down the label and should read at least four or five grams per serving. You can also boost the fiber content of any cereal by simply sprinkling raw bran, wheat germ, or ground flaxseed on it.

#3 –Choose ‘Wholesome’ cereals: By ‘wholesome’ cereals I mean those not loaded with sugar. Some kid cereals supply as much as 45 per cent sugar, making them better fit as a snack or dessert rather than as breakfast.

Keep sugar low by choosing cereals that supply no more than 8 grams of sugar per serving. There are some exceptions however to this 8-gram cut-off. Cereals with dried fruit, e.g., raisins and cranberries, will have higher sugar contents, and this is fine.

#4 – Choose Low Fat: Fat is a greater heath threat than sugar because of its link with weight gain, heart disease, and cancer.

Choose cereals supplying no more than 4 grams of fat per serving. If you like higher-fat cereals, such as granola or Cracklin’ Oat Bran, use them for a sprinkled topping on a low-fat cereal.

#5 – Choose Low-Salt Varieties: If you are watching your salt intake and are on a strict low-sodium diet for medical reasons, you should choose cereals that supply less than 250 milligrams (mg) of sodium per serving.

Almost any cereal is a lower sodium alternative to breakfast pastries, muffins, or biscuits. Here are three great low-sodium cereals: All-Bran (Kellogg’s) 80mg per half-cup serving; Shredded Wheat (Nabisco) 0mg per 1-cup serving; Go Lean Crunch (Kashi) 95mg per 1-cup serving.

So there you have it! Five good tips to help you get even more out of that breakfast bowl. If your favorite cereal didn’t meet the criteria listed, try combining it with other cereals to achieve a healthy mix.

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