Almost every home has at least one kind of breakfast cereal in their pantry or kitchen because it’s a staple for a quick and easy meal. But, this isn’t to say that every cereal you can buy in the market is healthy. In reality, the majority of the cereals are generally laden with fats and unhealthy sugar. When you’re on a diet, this can be a challenge, especially if you love cereals.
Today, however, nutritionists have got you covered. It’s no longer now as puzzling to look for healthy cereals when groceries are filled to the brim with choices. Cereal makers are competing to make it to your bowl, even when you’ve decided to become health-conscious.
To start with, skip the health claims on the front of the package. The manufacturers put all their marketing strategies in there. The most important thing for you to do is to pick up a cereal box and look at the nutritional values placed at the back of the box. Check the label, and keep these tips in mind:
1. Study The Portion Levels
Every person has their portion levels of the cereal that they have in a day. Some have half a cup, to even more than a cup. So, you need to learn how to study the portion controls of your cereal. When trying to analyze your portion levels, aim for the cereal that will only give you 200 calories or less per serving.
Here are some excellent reasons why portion control is critical:
- Works very well especially for those of you who are forced to go on a diet, because it helps you put your body weight at bay and manage the carbohydrate intake.
- It enables you to manage your blood sugar levels better. A person with a high blood sugar level will generally feel that he’s always hungry and may resort to eating more than the recommended serving size.
2. Choose Cereals Made Of Whole Grains
Choose the cereal that’s made wholly (or almost entirely) of whole grains. By making this choice, it means that you’re looking for the cereal made of whole grain or bran. When the nutrition labels give you a hundred percent whole grain, it makes for a healthy cereal that can keep you full. Pick up that box immediately. But, if it doesn’t say a hundred percent whole grain, you need to learn how to dig deeper through the ingredients list:
- It’s safe to assume that oats, sprouted grains, sorghum, millet or quinoa and muesli are whole grains.
- If the corn or wheat isn’t whole and the rice isn’t brown, this means they’re refined and are not as good.
Here are good reasons why you should endeavor to make whole grains your top choice:
- Whole grains are high in fiber that can help you feel full and satisfied for a much longer time. This feeling also makes it easier for you to maintain healthy body weight.
- Whole grains can help lower the risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and other lifestyle health diseases.
- Whole grains are rich in many other nutrients such as Vitamin B, magnesium, iron, folate, and potassium.
3. Choose Cereals With High Fiber
Another nutritional factor for you to consider when choosing cereals is to opt for the one that gives you a high fiber content. For cereals, the fiber content generally varies. But, a good point should be around five grams per serving.
Fiber is essential for a healthy diet for the following reasons:
- It can reduce feelings of constipation, especially when you haven’t had vegetables in a long time now.
- It helps you have a better ability to maintain a healthy weight, which in turn helps lessen the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and some types of cancer.
- It helps lower cholesterol levels, especially when coming from oats, flaxseed, or oat bran.
- It helps control blood sugar levels, especially for patients who have diabetes.
4. Limit The Added Sugars
When you check the nutrition labels meticulously, you’ll find an “added sugars” list right at the bottom of the “total sugars” list. Here’s the difference between these two types of sugars in cereals:
- Total sugars generally include sugars that are naturally found in fruit and milk
- Added sugars are those “healthy-sounding sweeteners” such as table sugar, sucrose, dried cane syrup, agave, honey, fruit juice concentrate, fructose, or molasses.
In understanding the balance between these two types of sugars, it’s still better that you limit the amount of added sugars found in the box. A healthy cereal should have no more than 7 grams of total sugar for light cereals and 11 grams for heavy cereals.
Here’s why you should limit your added sugars:
- Added sugars have little nutritional value but high-calorie count. This makes it more difficult for those of you trying to maintain a good weight level.
- Most added sugars are chemically processed.
- Consuming too much added sugar could crowd out space in your diet for other healthier dishes.
5. Stay Away From Sodium
When choosing among different cereals, stay clear from sodium. Even those cereals that are super sweet can still be highly laden with sodium. In the worst of all choices, some have more than 500 mg per serving. This amount is unhealthy as it is already equal to one-third of the daily recommended limit for people.
It’s imperative to stay clear from sodium for the following reasons:
- Too much sodium in your body can lead to high blood pressure.
- Too much sodium can harm the heart, brain, and kidneys.
6. Have Enough Unprocessed Fiber On The Cereal
This tip can be a very tricky one to follow. Because of the lack of disclosure in many cereal boxes, it can be so challenging to determine which percentage of the fiber is processed, and which isn’t. Here’s the difference between both:
- Processed fiber is present in a lot of the dishes today, cereals included. They come from inulin or chicory root fiber, soluble or wheat fiber, and many more other sources. They don’t perform as well as unprocessed fibers do in terms of trying to keep healthy. It may also trick you into believing that your blood sugar and cholesterol levels are well controlled, when in fact they’re not.
- Unprocessed fiber, on the other hand, comes from oats, wheat bran, and whole-grain wheat. When you’re on a diet, this is the healthier option for you to choose. You know that your body is getting the good stuff in, while also helping you feel full.
Here are other compelling reasons why it’s imperative to have enough serving of unprocessed fiber on your cereal:
- Unprocessed fiber helps feed the good bacteria in your intestine. This is very important for a healthy lifestyle, as it’s through the good bacteria that more nutrients are produced and distributed throughout the body.
- Unprocessed fiber in your body can help reduce the chances of spikes in the blood pressure after eating a high-carb meal.
- Unprocessed fiber can help in reducing the amount of cholesterol in your body.
- Unprocessed fiber can help normalize bowel movements and keep the digestive system healthy.
- Unprocessed fiber can help lower a person’s risk for Type 2 Diabetes.
- Unprocessed fiber through your cereals can also give you all the extra energy that you need to perform a good exercise.
7. Always Look Out For The Sugar And Fat Levels
This tip is probably one of the most commonly done by cereal enthusiasts who are now also on a diet. One of the very first things checked on the label is the sugar and fat levels. When you’re not careful enough, you might be getting so much more sugar than your body should be getting. Perhaps a shocker to you, but some cereals can give you so much more sugar in one serving than you’d get in three pieces of chocolate chip cookies.
Here’s why it’s essential to check the sugar and fat levels:
- When you start your breakfast with too much sugar and fat, your glucose will also spike up. This can make it very hard for you to control your glucose levels throughout the entire day.
- Too much sugar may give you the opposite results of dieting. Even if you have cereal, you may observe that you’re gaining way too much weight than you usually should.
- Sugar has very little to no nutritional value, so this isn’t something that your body needs too much of.
- If cereals laden with too much sugar is consumed daily, this also means that you’re increasing your risk for diseases such as heart problems, diabetes, and cancer.
- Cereals with too much sugar and fat early in the morning can drain your energy and make you lazy. This tricks your mind into believing that you need to eat and drink more than you have to so that you can keep up with the energy requirements of the day. When you lack energy early in the morning, this can also prevent you from doing healthy activities such as moving around more and exercising.
An excellent tip to follow is that the sugar levels on the labels of cereals should indicate 10 grams or less per serving.
8. Be On The Look Out For The Amount Of Saturated Fat
For every serving of cereal, you should have no more than 2 ½ grams of saturated fat because a person’s overall daily limit of saturated fat should only be around 13 grams. Saturated fats aren’t the healthiest option for people, whether you’re on a diet or not because too much of this in a person’s diet can lead to lousy lipid profiles and high cholesterol levels.
Too much saturated fat in a person’s diet is also harmful, for the following reasons:
- When not balanced, saturated fat can raise the amount of bad cholesterol or LDL in the body. Ideally, it should be balanced well enough such that it also has positive effects in increasing the amount of good cholesterol in the body.
- Too much saturated fat can make it harder for you to make your diet work to your advantage. In turn, your health may also suffer as you may experience risks with your heart’s health.
9. Consider Also The Many Ways For You To Prepare Your Cereal
No matter how healthy the nutrition facts of cereal may be, it can still result in an unhealthy meal when it’s prepared the wrong way. By this, it means that every day, you take in whole milk with your cereal rather than non-fat milk or other healthier options. To make your cereal also less boring, there are many different ways for you to prepare your morning cereal. These can help give you a more nutritious meal, especially as you’re on a diet:
- Add a few drops of cinnamon powder on your hot cereal.
- Top your whole-grain cereal with some berries. This can help add some taste and nutritional value to your cereal, making it a fuller meal. When you’re full for breakfast, this can effectively cut down your snacking tendencies. Apart from berries, you may also want to add fruit slices such as banana, mango, papaya, or whatever fruit is in season at your local market.
- Top your cereal with yogurt or soy milk, rather than using whole milk every day.
Cereal is a very popular breakfast food. Its ease of preparation makes it a favorite among families and even young professionals because even while on the go, you can have a full and hearty meal. The tricky part now begins if you’ve decided to live a healthier lifestyle as it can be difficult to choose truly healthy cereals. But with these tips, you’re now one step closer towards making this healthier choice. You can have the best of both worlds with enjoying a good cereal, without slacking on your health.