Breakfast cereals came under fire in the news a few weeks back for their high sugar content. Herald Sun reports that the average sugar content across all Australian cereal brands was 19.8g per 100g, or 5 teaspoons (click here to read more). And 3.4% of the total sugar intake in Australia was from breakfast cereal. ‘That Sugar Film’ (click here to read more) also bagged the seemingly healthy breakfast cereal last week, which got me to thinking, is the humble breakfast cereal really that bad?
I think there are the obviously unhealthy choices – Fruit Loops, Coco Pops, Rice Bubbles, Nutri Grain, Crunchy Nut and Corn Flakes. Then there are the ‘seemingly healthier’ choices, such as Special K, Just Right, Sustain and Be Natural to name a few. While the sugar content may be higher than nutritionists would like, they also offer us an array of nutritional benefits – often as high as 25% or 50% of our Recommended Daily Intake.
Common Nutritional Benefits of Breakfast Cereals
- Present in red blood cells and delivers oxygen to every cell in the body.
- Essential for healthy red blood cells and to avoid anemia, fatigue and weakness.
- Found in most meats and some plant based foods such as spinach and pumpkin seeds.
- Essential for strong bones, healthy teeth and growing bodies.
- Found in dairy products including milk, cheese and yoghurt.
- Essential for growth and maintenance of all body cells and a good source of sustained energy.
- Found in meats, dairy products, nuts and plant based foods.
- Helps keep the digestive system healthy, and our bowel movements regular.
- Found in cereals, fruits and vegetables.
B Group Vitamins
- Helps the body to use nutrients such as carbs, proteins and fats for fuel.
- 8 types, including Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Panthothenic Acid, Biotin, Vitamin B6, Folate and Vitamin B12.
- Found in a variety of fresh, natural foods such as meats, vegetables, dairy products and plant based foods.
Tips for choosing a Healthy Breakfast Cereal
I wouldn’t forego the nutritional benefits in breakfast cereals just for the sake of their sugar content. In our busy, on the go lives today, the humble breakfast cereal is a great way to top up on the nutrients that we may miss throughout the day. Here are my tips for healthy consumption of breakfast cereal:
- Stick to the serving size on the box (usually 40g or 1 metric cup), to avoid overloading on carbs and excess sugar.
- Add fruit and nuts to your cereal for some extra sustinence.
- Stick to the “Original” version of the product. Avoid flavoured extensions of the product with added sugars such as dried fruit, clusters or honey.
- Opt for a product with 20g or less sugar content per 100g.
- Be cautious of “low fat” or “fat free” products, which can often be substituted with extra sugar. Most cereal is, however, natually low in fat.
- Look for products that provide you with a good percentage of your Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) of nutrients (usually 10-25%). Many healthier cereal brands proudly stipulate this information on their nutrition labels.
- Choose cereals with wholegrains.
- and….READ THE LABEL!
So, what are your thoughts or experiences with breakfast cereals?