Finding time to sit down and have a well-balanced breakfast can sometimes be difficult, especially if you’re running late for school, work, or other errands, which is why cereal is often the go-to choice for so many busy Canadians. Why? Because it’s quick it’s quick and easy. But is it healthy?
Breakfast cereal, which is made from processed grain, is also usually fortified with vitamins and minerals in order to make it more nutritious. A bowl of Kellogg’s breakfast cereal, for example, contains as many as 6 different B-group vitamins, including thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), vitamin B6, vitamin B12, as well as folic acid. These vitamins are especially good for converting what we eat into fuel, which helps us feel more energized throughout the day. They’re also critical for the growth, development and functioning of the body’s cells, as well as help with brain health, the health of our muscles, our nervous system, and even promotes things like hair and bone growth. You can find a complete breakdown of each of the B-group vitamins and their benefits via VeryWellFit.com.
However, while many breakfast cereals claim to be healthy with their focus being on things like fibre and whole grains, they’re also loaded with refined carbohydrates and may even contain more sugar than you realize – neither of which are good for your overall health. In fact, breakfast cereal was found to be one of the greatest sources of added sugar in the diet, especially of children. This is because many cereals are marketed towards children and use things like bright colours, fun designs and flavours to entice them. While cereals like Cheerios and Frosted Flakes have been more promoted over the years, they’re not necessarily enough to bring in the consumers (with cereal sales declining by as much as 11% in the last 5 years); and, in effort to bring consumers back, some manufacturers are introducing more sugary alternatives to some breakfast cereal favourites.
So just how do you avoid all that sugar while still enjoying a bowl of cereal? The most important thing is to read the nutritional information, which is often printed on the back or side of a cereal box. Not only will it list the ingredients, but it will break down how many grams of sugar you’re consuming per serving. When choosing a breakfast cereal, Dr. Ali Ghahary recommends picking one that contains less than 5 grams of sugar per serving. You should also aim for choosing a breakfast cereal that is higher in fibre (containing at least 3 grams per serving.) Because breakfast cereal can be so tasty, it’s also a good idea to pay attention to portion sizes just as you would any other meal when following a strict low-carb or ketogenic diet, or following the recommendations from Canada’s Food Guide.
To make your cereal even more nutritious, Dr. Ali Ghahary also recommends adding in some extra protein as it can increase fullness and reduce your appetite, making you less likely to snack throughout the day and more likely to have a healthy lunch and dinner. Protein also helps your body repair tissues and make enzymes. Examples of protein-rich foods include nuts such as almonds, as well as flax or pumpkin seeds. Alternatively, rather than eating your cereal with a bowl of milk, a good idea would be to mix it into Greek yogurt.