There’s no doubt that breakfast is an important meal and cereal is an easy choice for busy families. Though some cereals are a healthy solution, many more are nutritional wastelands, offering little but calories. Though it’s intimidating to stare down the long line of boxes in the cereal aisle, it’s important to make the right choice for your children.
Separating the Good from the Bad
Many of the cereals that are marketed toward children — the ones with colorful boxes and cartoon characters — contain too much sugar. You should look for cereals that have less than 4 grams of sugar, if possible. Additionally, cereals that are high in fiber are a good choice, as these foods can help your child stay full until it’s time for lunch or a snack.
Reading the Label
Before you believe the claims on the front of the package — such as “made with whole grains” or “1/3 less sugar” — you need to turn the box over to look at the nutritional information. First look at the ingredient list. Ideally, the first ingredient should be a whole grain and sugar should be far down the list. Then, look at the serving size and calorie count. Many sugary cereals seem comparable when you look at the calories, but when you look at the serving size, you see that it’s actually 3/4 of a cup, while the healthier cereal has a 1-cup size serving. You can also look at the fiber, sugar and vitamin content on the nutrition label.
Cereal manufacturers are making strides to improve the health quality of their cereals. Many are now making cereals with fewer sugar and more whole grains. General Mills, for example, is aiming to reduce the sugar content of its kids’ cereals to less than 10 grams.
Beware the Health Food Aisle
Most grocery stores have a natural foods section that features products with natural or organic ingredients. Foods in here are not necessarily healthy. An organic cereal may still have a lot of sugar — it’s just organic sugar or honey rather than regular sugar. Give the cereals in the natural foods section just as much scrutiny as you would the cereals in the other aisle.
Kids and Healthy Cereals
You may worry that your children won’t like any of the healthy cereals that you offer them, especially if they have a choice between a healthy one and an unhealthy one. However, MedicineNet.com reports that children who are allowed to select from a variety of healthy cereals are just as happy with their choices as children who are allowed to select from a variety of unhealthy cereals.