Cereals are one of the most confusing breakfast foods. While some may be considered healthy, most brands are not.
Most breakfast cereals on supermarket shelves are high in simple carbohydrates, refined flour, fat, and even salt.
If you or your child eat unhealthy breakfast cereals every day, they will likely gain weight or lead to specific health problems, such as tooth decay, high blood pressure, and insulin resistance.
This article discusses what you should check to choose healthy breakfast cereals and how to combine them for a healthy and balanced diet.
What are breakfast cereals?
Breakfast cereals are foods made from processed grains; in some cases, vitamins and minerals are added. They are usually eaten with milk, yogurt, fruits, or nuts.
The grains are usually finely processed and then cooked to make breakfast cereals. The flour is mixed with sugar, salt, colorants, and other ingredients in some cases.
In a process called extrusion, they are then shaped, dried, and given the finishing touch: sugar-coating, puffing, etc.
How to choose healthy breakfast cereals?
Not all breakfast cereals are the same. One of the keys to choosing healthy breakfast cereals is checking the ingredient list. As a general rule, choose breakfast cereals that are whole grains, low in sugar and sodium.
To know which are the brands of healthy sugar cereals, you should check that:
- Are low in sugar
Sugar, sucrose, or dextrose takes first or second place on the list for most brands of breakfast cereals. This means that white cane sugar is the product’s main ingredient; these brands should be avoided.
Excess sugar can cause all sorts of health problems. Research has shown that it spikes your insulin levels; this increases the feeling of hunger and can lead to overeating.
Even the WHO has declared that excess sugar is one of the leading causes of overweight and obesity globally. (1) Eating large amounts of sugar every day can lead to type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer. (2,3,4)
- The vegetable fiber content is high
Vegetable fiber is an indigestible carbohydrate associated with health benefits, such as improving digestion and preventing type 2 diabetes.
Fiber is found in the shells of grains, so it should be in whole grain breakfast cereals.
- The high content of vitamins and minerals
One of the benefits of some cereal brands is that they are high in vitamins and minerals. This is particularly important for those children and adolescents who do not consume fruits and vegetables.
Whole grain breakfast cereals are naturally high in B vitamins.
- Do not contain other sugar analogs.
Honey, fructose syrup, caramel, invert sugar, etc., are all ingredients equivalent to sugar. In terms of health damage, they are very similar. If you are looking for brands of healthy breakfast cereals, make sure they do not contain more than 5 grams of these ingredients per serving.
- Contain low content of trans and saturated fats
Trans fats are a type of fat that causes health damage. Some cheaper brands of breakfast cereals contain trans fats in their composition; these cannot be considered healthy.
As for saturated fats, the situation is a bit more complex; current research has confirmed that they are not as bad as previously believed. You can check the following article to know more: Are saturated fats good or bad for your health?
Are breakfast cereals good for kids and teens?
For years, marketing strategies have led us to believe that all breakfast cereals are good when they are food that can even be considered unhealthy.
Some breakfast cereals can be considered good foods for teenagers. However, they are the least. If you choose cereals for breakfast, it is essential to know how to distinguish which ones are healthy.
An example of an ideal breakfast for children and adolescents is a yogurt low in fat and sugar with a handful of nuts, a serving of whole-grain breakfast cereals, and a piece of fruit. Other healthy breakfast options are porridge oats or pancakes with oat flour or sugar-free.
Most brands of breakfast cereals contain added sugar and other refined carbohydrates. Colorful packaging and healthy food disclosures can be misleading.
If you or your child eat cereal for breakfast, read the ingredients list. The best grains are low in sugar and rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
A healthy breakfast cannot consist solely of breakfast cereals but must be combined with other foods such as fruits, yogurts, eggs, or other foods rich in protein.