What to look for in dry cereals
Cereal may be your go-to item for breakfast, whether you grab a handful to eat dry while on the run, or you have time to sit down for a bowl with milk and fruit. But not all cereals are created equal. Read the Nutrition Facts label and ingredient list before you buy cereal. And remember that not all cereals have the same serving size. A serving of one cereal might be 1/2 cup, while another may be 1 cup.
Key items to consider when choosing cereal are:
- Fiber. Choose cereals with at least 3 grams of fiber in each serving, but if possible, aim for 5 grams a serving or more.
- Sugar. After you find fiber-rich cereals that you like, look for the one with the lowest amount of sugar. Focus on cereals marketed to adults. They're usually lower in sugar than cereals aimed at children. To find out how much sugar a cereal contains, check the Nutrition Facts label. It's also important to check the ingredient list. Avoid cereals that list sugar at or near the top of the ingredient list, or that list multiple types of added sugar, such as high-fructose corn syrup, honey, brown sugar and dextrose.
- Calories. If you're counting calories, choose cereals lower in calories, ideally less than 160 calories a serving.
Remember to top off your bowl of cereal with some sliced fruit and low-fat or skim milk. Or if you're on the go, take along a piece of fruit, a container of milk or some yogurt.
A word about cereal bars
Cereal bars may be a good breakfast option. Just be sure to look for those that meet the same guidelines as dry cereal. Also, don't forget some fruit and low-fat milk or yogurt to round things out. Even fruit or yogurt cereal bars won't satisfy all your nutrition requirements for breakfast.
Quick and flexible breakfast options
You have plenty of ways to get in a healthy breakfast each day, and it doesn't always have to be a traditional breakfast menu.
Here are some examples of healthy breakfast options:
- Cooked oatmeal topped with almonds or dried cranberries
- A whole-wheat pita stuffed with hard-boiled eggs
- Leftover vegetable pizza
- A tortilla filled with vegetables, salsa and low-fat shredded cheese
- A smoothie of fruits, plain yogurt and a spoonful of wheat germ
- Whole-wheat crackers with low-fat cheese or peanut butter
- A whole-wheat sandwich with lean meat and low-fat cheese, lettuce, tomato, cucumber and sweet peppers
- Multigrain pancakes with fruit and yogurt
- A whole-grain waffle with peanut butter
- Egg omelet with vegetables (use more egg whites than yolk)
Fitting in a healthy breakfast
Try these tips for fitting in breakfast on a tight schedule:
- Cook ahead. Make breakfast the night before. Just reheat as necessary in the morning.
- Set the stage. Figure out what you'll eat for breakfast the night before. Then, set out dry ingredients and any bowls, equipment or pans. They'll be ready for use in the morning.
- Pack it up. Make a to-go breakfast the night before. In the morning, you can grab it and go.
If you skip breakfast because you want to save calories, reconsider that plan. Chances are you'll be ravenous by lunchtime. That may lead you to overeat or choose fast but unhealthy options — perhaps doughnuts or cookies a co-worker brings to the office.
Your morning meal doesn't have to mean loading up on sugar and fats, and it doesn't have to be time-consuming to be healthy. Keep the breakfast basics in mind and set yourself up for healthier eating all day long.
Apr. 08, 2014
See more In-depth
- Kerver JM, et al. Meal and snack patterns are associated with dietary intake of energy and nutrients in US adults. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2006;106:46.
- Rampersaud GC, et al. Breakfast habits, nutritional status, body weight, and academic performance in children and adolescents. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2005;105:743.
- Wyatt HR, et al. Long-term weight loss and breakfast in subjects in the National Weight Control Registry. Obesity Research. 2002;10:78.
- Song WO, et al. Serum homocysteine concentration of US adults associated with fortified cereal consumption. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 2005;24:503.
- Cut back on your kid's sweet treats. U.S. Department of Agriculture. http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/downloads/TenTips/DGTipsheet13CutBackOnSweetTreats.pdf . Accessed Dec. 6, 2013.
- Duyff RL. American Dietetic Association Complete Food and Nutrition Guide. 4th ed. Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons; 2012:260.
- 4 tips for better breakfasts. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. http://www.eatright.org/Public/content.aspx?id=6747. Accessed Nov. 21, 2013.
- Nelson JK (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Dec. 12, 2013.
- Zeratsky KA (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Dec. 17, 2013.
- Affenito SG. Breakfast: A missed opportunity. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2007;107:565.
- Albertson AM, et al. Consumption of breakfast cereal is associated with positive health outcomes: Evidence from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Growth and Health Study. Nutrition Research. 2008;28:744.
- USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 26. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. http://ndb.nal.usda.gov. Accessed Nov. 21, 2013.
- Breakfast basics for busy families. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. http://www.eatright.org/Public/content.aspx?id=6442460400. Accessed Nov. 21, 2013.
- Deshmukh-Taskar P, et al. The relationship of breakfast skipping and type of breakfast consumption with nutrient intake and weight status in children and adolescents: The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 1999-2006. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2010;110:869.
- Additional requirements for nutrient content claims. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/LabelingNutrition/ucm064916.htm. Accessed Dec. 18, 2013.
- Schwartz ME, et al. Examining the nutritional quality of breakfast cereals marketed to children. Journal of American Dietetic Association. 2008;108:702.