How to pick a healthy breakfast cereal

When you’re in the cereal aisle, staring at hundreds of colourful boxes, it may be tempting to pick the product with the brightest colours – or one that claims to be the tastiest or healthiest. If cereal is a firm staple in your home, use our list of criteria to ensure that you’re picking the best possible cereal for you and your family.

The sugar trap

While some cereals are fortified with additional iron, vitamins and minerals, many are also packed with as much sugar as a can of cola or chocolate bar… just the name, “frosted flakes”, says it all. Plus, a lot of cereals on the market are highly processed to make them more palatable, so they’re stripped of fibre and are usually loaded with colourants, preservatives and artificial sweeteners.

A popular choice

Recent statistics show that cold cereal still ranks high as one of the most popular meal and snack choices around the globe. This is because it’s quick and simple to prepare and eat in the mornings before rushing off to school and work, and can be eaten on the go as a dry snack too. However, a recent study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association showed that compared to non-children’s cereals, children’s cereals were denser in energy, sugar, and sodium, but were lower in fibre and protein.

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Become a cereal detective

With breakfast being the most important meal of the day, you should take just a few minutes to scan product labels carefully and choose the healthiest option for you and your family. A breakfast cereal should be nutrient-dense and keep you fuller for longer. It should also be easy to prepare and eat to avoid skipping breakfast entirely, or choosing a sugary muffin or doughnut on the way to school or work.

For instance, The Fry Family Food Co. has just launched SA’s first plant-based, gluten-free breakfast cereal, Kasha. It’s high in protein and low in sugar, plus it’s packed with oats, chia seeds, buckwheat and other superfoods to provide sustained energy throughout the day. Another bonus is that it’s suitable for the whole family and you can enjoy it as a porridge, smoothie or shake on the run.

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Here’s a list of criteria to keep in mind next time you’re in the cereal aisle:

The markers of a good cereal

Low in sugar: Packaged cereals are among the worst offenders when it comes to hidden sugar. Sugar shouldn’t be listed as the first or second ingredient and the cereal should contain 7 grams of sugar or less per 100g. Also, watch for too much dried fruit – as it’s high in fructose, and be sure to watch out for terms such as dextrose, maltodextrin and sucrose.

Low in sodium: Low-calorie cereals are often high in sodium, which has been linked to many health problems. Sodium should be less then 240mg per serving of any breakfast cereal.

Contain no artificial colours or preservatives: Always choose plant-based colours over artificial ones and avoid added preservatives.

Are trans-fat free: While fat and calories from nuts are okay (in the correct portion size) you should try to avoid cereals with partially hydrogenated oils or “trans fats” listed anywhere on the ingredients list. Wholegrain cereals are generally lower in saturated fats, so it’s best to opt for these.

Look out for healthy breakfast cereals which are: A good balance of carbohydrates, healthy fats and proteins. Some cereals also include highly nutritious ingredients and superfoods such as chia seeds, cacao nibs and moringa.

Want to know what one of our new favourite healthy breakfast options is? Click here to find out more…