Choosing the right breakfast cereal is almost a miracle because there are so many brands and flavours available. With so many brightly coloured, healthy-looking cardboard boxes to choose from, it’s hard to find your way around. While cereal is a great meal option to start your morning, it’s important to choose wisely.
Is granola better than cereal?
Typically, granola is a toasted mixture of rolled oats, nuts, a sweetening agent such as honey or maple syrup and oil. To optimize its taste and crunchy texture, it can also contain dried fruits, seeds, spices, nut butters and other grains such as puffed rice.
Did you know that?
Because of the sugar and oil in its basic ingredients, granola is almost always higher in calories, fat and sugar than most other types of cereals. Instead, replace it with a muesli cereal that has a similar grain and nut composition, but without the sugary soak!
Watch out for impressive health claims!
On many cereal boxes, health claims are made to promote these products as healthy foods. However, these cereal products are often much less impressive than they claim to be.
Indeed, upon closer inspection of cereal boxes bearing claims such as “whole grain” and “low fat”, sugar is often found as one of the main ingredients. Disappointing for a product that seemed to be healthy, isn’t it?
Ideally, to avoid disappointment, you should always check the nutrition label. This technique will give you an overview of the product you are about to put in your basket.
Unfortunately, many consumers have blind faith in health claims. In this way, they are an effective way for the industry to mislead customers into believing that their products are healthier. Now that you know, don’t fall for it!
Look at the nutrition facts
The Nutrition Facts table is a gold mine of information! Check it regularly to make informed choices and it will become more and more familiar to you!
The reference serving size for the nutrient values of ready-to-eat cereals is 250 mL (1 cup). Due to the different weights of cereals, this corresponds to serving sizes ranging from 15 to 55 grams. Therefore, always check the reference serving size and adjust it, if necessary, before comparing two products.
Here are the nutritional criteria to look for when selecting your breakfast cereal (for a 30g serving):
- It should contain no more than 3g of fat OR no added fat;
- If possible, they should contain no trans fat, or less than 5% of total fat;
- They must provide at least 2 g of dietary fibre;
- Must not contain more than 240 mg of sodium (10% DV);
- Must contain no more than 6 g of total sugars (excluding fruit sugar) except where the product contains 4 g or more of fibre per serving.
Proteins are the most satiating macronutrients. In fact, they increase satiety and reduce appetite. Specifically, it has been shown that ghrelin, known as the hunger hormone, is found in lower concentrations in the blood after a protein meal.
Eating cereal alone will make it hard not to crave a morning snack since it normally contains less than 10 g of protein per serving. However, by adding 250 mL (1 cup) of partly skimmed milk, you add almost 9 g of protein! Add fruit and a handful of seeds of your choice and you have a balanced breakfast that’s close to 20 g of protein!
Focus on the ingredient list
The ingredient list is a great source of information to complement the Nutrition Facts table. Did you know that the ingredients listed are in descending order? Well yes, the first ingredient you will read in this list is the one most present in your cereal box! So look for cereal boxes where a whole grain such as oats, rice, wheat or quinoa is at the top of the list and where sugar is as far away as possible.
Did you know that?
A meal made up only of carbohydrates does not allow you to feel full as long as a meal that also contains protein
The length of the ingredient list also gives a good indication of the nature of the food product. The longer the list, the more processed the product is. Therefore, opt for cereals with a short list of ingredients. However, don’t take into account the ingredients added to enrich the cereal such as pantothenic acid or folate, these are interesting additions.
Now you are better equipped to make good choices. The following chart will help you easily identify which foods to choose, which to eat in moderation and which to eat only occasionally.
The bottom line
In short, when it comes to deciding which box of cereal should be on the table in the morning, many factors come into play, including the fibre content and the presence of sugar in its ingredients. Don’t forget to look at the nutrition label on your cereal, and don’t be fooled by misleading health claims!