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    Entire grocery store isles are devoted to cereals, making it difficult to know which to choose. Here’s what to look for when shopping for cereal. Read >>
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Health and Fitness News

Cereal Smarts

With so many to choose from, how do you choose a healthy cereal?

What’s your go-to breakfast? For many people, it’s a bowl of cereal. Just pour some in a bowl, add some milk, and you’re good to go. It’s convenient, tastes good, and can be a nutritious way to start your day. If you’re careful.

Entire grocery store isles are devoted to cereals, making it difficult to know which to choose. Of course, your kids beg for the rainbow-colored, sugar-coated cereals advertised with cartoon characters. And some cereals claim to be “heart-healthy,” made with whole grains, or containing no artificial colors or flavors. But is it really a healthy way to start your day?

Here’s what to look for when shopping for cereal.

Made with 100 Percent Whole-Grains

One of the most important ways to narrow down your cereal options is to check the ingredient label. Whole-grain should be listed as the first ingredient. Whole-grain oats or whole-grain wheat are the most common whole grains found in cereal. Whole grains are by nature higher in protein, fiber, and nutrients. If you don’t see whole grain, the cereal is likely made with refined grain. That means the fiber and nutrients have been depleted. Stay away!

Low in Added Sugar

One reason so many kids and adults love cereal is because it’s filled with added sugar. Healthy cereals are low in added sugar. Nutrition labels now list added sugar and total sugar separately since fruit and dairy contain natural sugars. Look for cereals that contain less than 7 grams of total sugar per serving. If you see some type of sugar listed in the first three ingredients, the cereal is best left on the shelf. Beware: sugar goes by many different names, including high fructose corn syrup, evaporated cane juice, and maltodextrin. Know the secret names of sugar and protect your waistline by keeping sugar-filled cereals out of your pantry.

High in Fiber

A cereal high in fiber provides longer lasting energy and keeps you feeling filled for longer. Whole grains and fiber usually go hand in hand since refined grains contain little to no fiber. This is why you feel hungry soon after eating a bowl full of sugar-coated puffs. Women should eat 25 grams of fiber per day and men, 38 grams. Yet most people eat far less. When deciding which cereal is healthiest for your family, check to make sure there are at least 5 grams of fiber in each serving. The more, the better.

A Source of Protein

Protein is another nutrient to look for when buying a cereal. Like fiber, protein is digested slowly. Because of this, it helps keep you full longer. This is good, because you don’t want to feel hungry an hour after eating breakfast.

Unfortunately, it can be hard finding a cereal with a good amount of protein. There is one easy option: oatmeal. With 6 grams of protein per serving, oatmeal is a guaranteed protein boost and a great way to start your way. Not a fan of oatmeal? Some cereals have as much as 12 grams of protein per serving. You can add even more protein by eating your cereal with Greek yogurt.

Healthy Portions

It’s smart to check nutrition labels for sugar or calories. However, you should remember that those are listed per serving size. A serving size may be only half a cup, but it’s likely you’re eating more than that, which means you may eat two or three times the amount of sugar and calories listed. To be safe, find a cereal with less than 200 calories per serving.