How to Choose a Healthy Cereal

The cereal aisle can be daunting, with row after row of brightly colored boxes plastered with bold claims and messages, including those about whole grains. With so many options, it can be challenging to make the right choice. Here are some tips that will help you choose a healthy option.

frisches Müsli mit Früchten / fresh muesli with fruits

Choosing a Healthy Cold Cereal

Look for a cereal that has at least four of the following:

  • 5 grams or more of fiber
  • 8 grams or less of sugar
  • a maximum of 200 calories per serving
  • a maximum of 200 mg sodium per serving
  • ingredients you can pronounce and recognize

Don’t get discouraged if your healthy cereal looks more like bran flakes than marshmallow clovers. You can liven up your cereal with tasty and nutritious toppings. For toppings:

  • Add fruit, fresh or frozen. Frozen berries are bite-sized and easy to keep on hand — this means no prep work and no chance of them going bad.
  • Use low-fat dairy milk or a high-protein dairy substitute like soy milk.
  • Add a tablespoon of nuts, seeds or almond butter, if your cereal doesn’t already contain them.  Healthy fats increase satiety.
  • Try sprinkling in some cinnamon for a boost of flavor. Cinnamon may also help control your blood sugar.

All of the grain in your cereal should come from whole grains. If you see a label that says “5 grams whole grain,” you’ll know the cereal likely also contains less nutritious refined grains. A cereal that’s 100-percent whole grain is more likely to have adequate fiber content, which helps you stay full longer.

Choosing a Healthy Hot Cereal

When choosing hot cereal, consider steel-cut oats, sometimes labeled Irish or Scottish Oats. Folks tend to pass over steel-cut oats because making it takes about 30 minutes. The reason for the lengthier cooking time is because steel-cut oats are minimally processed, which means they contain more nutritional benefits and are worth the extra effort.

Here are ways to make it easier to have steel-cut oats for breakfast:

  • Make a large batch of steel-cut oats (in the evening if you’re crunched for time in the morning) to eat throughout the week.
  • Check the freezer aisle for pre-prepared varieties of steel-cut oats.

Once you find a cereal that fits your health and taste goals, you’ll be able to approach the cereal aisle with confidence and purpose, and tune out the bold claims on bright boxes.

This blog was originally published on October 18, 2013. It was last updated on December 2, 2016.

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