Chances are, the breakfast foods aisle at your grocery still will be loaded with colorful boxes and bags of dry cereal. The bright colors and cute characters on the packages may get your attention, but you need to look beyond the advertising to find out which cereals are best for you -- here's how:
- Look for the Nutrition Facts label on the side or back of the package. This is where you'll find all the information you need to know. You're going to look at sugar, fiber, vitamins and minerals, and the ingredients list.
- Choose a breakfast cereal that has five grams of sugar or less per serving, and use fresh berries, sliced fruit or raisins to add sweetness to your cereal. (Confused about grams? here's how to turn grams into teaspoons.) Avoid cereals with lots of sugar -- some cereals have ten grams of sugar (that's about three teaspoons), or more, in one serving. A serving ranges from three-forths to one cup of cereal. Think about how much cereal you really eat -- you may actually eat two or three servings at a time.
- Choose a cereal that is high in fiber -- at least three grams per serving. You'll find the most fiber in high-fiber cereals such as shredded wheat, oat cereals, puffed wheat and bran cereals. Usually the more sugar a cereal has, the less fiber it has per serving. The sugary cereals typically have about one gram per serving.
- Look for cereals that are fortified with vitamins and minerals. If you eat a healthful diet rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, healthy protein sources and non- or low-fat dairy products, you probably don't have to worry about getting enough vitamins and minerals. If your diet isn't so good, or you're buying cereal for a child who is a picky eater, getting those extra vitamins and minerals is a good idea. The amounts of fortified nutrients vary among cereals, but look for cereals with added calcium, vitamin D, folic acid (the synthetic form of folate) and vitamin C.
- Look over the ingredients list. You want to see the words "whole grain" or "whole wheat" listed as the first ingredient. You may also wish to avoid cereals that contain artificial flavoring and colorings.
- Round out your breakfast by adding a slice of whole grain toast with a little peanut butter, or a hard-boiled egg, and a glass of 100-percent fruit juice. Don't ruin your breakfast with high-fat and high-calorie foods.
- Look past the colorful packaging to find the Nutrition Facts label.
- Don't shop when you're hungry so you aren't tempted by the sweet-as-candy cereals.
- Add non-fat milk, soy beverage or rice beverage to your cereal.
- Add extra fiber with fresh sliced fruits or berries.