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Healthy breakfast cereals for the whole family

August 03, 2015

How would you feel if your child ate cookies for breakfast? I am sure most parents would not approve. Surprisingly, many breakfast cereals have just as much sugar as a cookie, brownie or other desserts. Breakfast cereals are a great choice to provide our body with energy for the upcoming day, but it is important to make wise choices in the cereal aisle. A healthy cereal should be able to fuel your body with necessary nutrients that will help it grow and stay strong. Our body, just like a car, needs good quality fuel to keep it going throughout the day. When we put not-so-healthy food in us, we often feel run down, tired, cranky, and very hungry. In order to make wise choices, there are three key nutrition criteria that we should look for when purchasing cereal.

Firstly, it is important to pay attention serving sizes, especially since many people consume more than the recommended amount. The serving size of cereals can range greatly, so taking a peek at the nutrition facts label can help you make smart choices. When we eat more than what the serving size indicates, we will have to double or even triple the amount of nutrients that cereal provides, this can be either good or bad. For example, if you eat two servings of a breakfast cereal with 11 grams of sugar, you are actually eating 22 grams of sugar. This is why it is very important to pay attention to serving sizes and measure out portions. Sugar can sneak up on us.

Three Key Nutrition Criteria for Choosing Healthy Breakfast Cereals

  1. Amount of sugar. Choose cereals with no more than 6 grams of sugar per serving. If we start our day off with too much sugar, we often experience a not-so pleasant sugar crash mid-morning. This sugar crash can make us feel tired, cranky and hungry all day. Watch out for cereals with fake fruits, fruit flavoring, or yogurt pieces. They might appear to be healthy, but the sugar content is often very high. If you need for some sweetness, adding fresh strawberries, blueberries, or bananas is a better choice.
Surprising breakfast cereal sugar facts:

Did you know:

  • One serving of Golden Crisp cereal has 14 grams of sugar, which is the same amount as three Oreo cookies?
  • Just a ¾ cup of Cocoa/Fruity Pebbles cereal has 11 grams of sugar per serving, which is the same as three Chips-Ahoy cookies?
  • One cup of Raisin Bran Crunch has 19 grams of sugar per serving, which is the same amount as one Good Humor Vanilla King Cone?
  1. Amount of fiber. Choosing cereals that contain at least 3 grams of fiber helps promote fullness, can prevent blood sugar spikes, and also can lower the risk of chronic diseases. Fiber is also important for keeping the digestive system happy and working properly. If you are feeling the need for more fiber, it can be added to cereal in the form of nuts, seeds, and fresh fruit.
  1. Presence of whole grains. The Unites States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) dietary guidelines recommend children, teens, and adults make half of their grains whole grains. In order to meet the recommendation, looking for whole grain cereals can help you start the day off on the right foot. To find whole grain cereals we have to become a whole grain detective. Search for the key word “whole” in front of the specific grain (whole grain corn, whole wheat etc.), which we also want to make sure it is the first ingredient. Whole grains provide us with much needed vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
Keep a watchful eye out for statements such as:
  • “Now made with whole grains!”
  • “Contains 8g of whole grains”
These claims above can often appear on the front of the box of sugary cereals. Although these cereals do contain whole grains, the amount might be minimal, plus they are loaded with unnecessary sugar. When you spot these claims while browsing the cereal aisle, it can be the perfect time to do a nutrition facts label investigation and discover if the cereal is a good choice.

What cereals meet the criteria for sugar, fiber and whole grains?

  1. Regular Cheerios (Serving size 1 cup, 100kcal, 3g fiber, and 1g sugar)
  2. Multi-grain Cheerios (Serving size 1cup, 110kcal, 3g fiber, and 6g sugar)
  3. Original Kix (Serving size 1¼ cup, 110kcal, 3g fiber, and 3g sugar)
  4. Kellogg’s Mini Wheat’s - Unfrosted (Serving size 30 biscuits, 190kcal, 8g fiber, and 0g sugar)
A great way to spruce up unsweetened cereal is to add fresh fruit, a touch of brown sugar, and cinnamon.

Choosing whole grain cereals that contain low amounts of added sugar and are also a good source of fiber can help children and teens stay properly fueled and maintain good energy levels.

For more information on the USDA’s dietary guidelines for adults and children, visit