Breakfast cereals are a quick and easy way to start your day. And whilst it is appealing for its quick and easy preparation, I am not a big advocate of eating processed breakfast cereals – they’re often loaded with sugar, and have very little fibre. Also, sorting through the multitude of options at the grocery store can be a tricky task – the aisle is loaded with colourful boxes featuring cute eye catching cartoon characters.
We need to understand, that what we feed kids now will affect them in the long run. Parents set the stage for what kids will view as normal when it comes to food. If we are constantly feeding them food from a package, they will grow accustomed to the over powering sugary and salty tastes and perhaps not appreciate the natural flavours of ‘real food.’ They will grow up to think that eating means opening a package or a box.
With all of the above said, however, there are plenty of healthy and convenient options out there – we just need to know what to look for!
First and foremost, it is always a good idea to have a look at the ingredient list – seeing is believing! If sugar (or any form of sweetener like brown rice syrup, agave syrup, glucose, honey etc) is one of the first 3 ingredients listed, put it back. Over and above the ingredient list, names or descriptions like ‘honey coated’, ‘frosted’, or ‘chocolate coated’ are good ‘give aways’ that they contain sugar.
Speaking of the ingredients list, choose cereals where the first ingredient is a whole grain. Look for the word ‘whole’ in front of the grain, for example whole wheat flour, or whole oats. Whole grains have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers. Unlike whole grains, refined grains like white flour have been stripped of most of their fibre, vitamins and minerals. They are more quickly digested and have a high glycemic index – which may lead to over eating.
Some of the muesli or granola type cereals can be quite high in fat, if they’ve been toasted in oil or butter. When looking at the ingredients list, look for 3 grams of less per 100g (remember, fat has 3 letters!). Watch out for the muesli that contain nuts – this will naturally be higher in unsaturated fat, a plant fat which is healthy. But remember my good old saying, even too much of a good thing can be bad!
What is especially important for the kiddies, is that we look for cereals that are fortified with vitamins and minerals. If you eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains and healthy protein sources you probably don’t have to worry about getting enough vitamins and minerals. But if your diet isn’t so good, or if your child is a picky eater, getting those extra vitamins and minerals may be a good idea.
And last but not least, those with high blood pressure or a family history of the condition, should also take note of the sodium content in cereals. Even super sweet cereals can have high amounts of salt, so keep an eye out!
Stay tuned for my next post – a breakfast cereal family recipe that is an absolute winner for those early school mornings!