Cereal – Real or Surreal Nutrition?

With all the marketing and health claims of food companies, it’s no wonder we’re all confused on what to eat to live a healthy, fit life, especially when it comes to breakfast. Cereal companies claim you will lose weight eating their cereal every day, others boast they are made with whole grains. Let’s delve into the cereal issue and find out what they’re really made of.

First we’ll start by reading the ingredients – a hair raising experience in itself! We all know that ingredients are listed on the back of the box in the order of greatest to least, meaning the first ingredient is the most dominant, and so on. I feel my jeans getting tighter just reading that sugar is the 3rd ingredient in Special K and high fructose corn syrup (even worse than sugar) is the 6th! And to make matters worse for this so-called diet cereal, there is just one measly gram of fiber per serving! Fiber is key to healthy weight loss and heart health. Low calorie, maybe, but this cereal is low in nutrition, high in sugar and just leaves us jiggly in the middle and cranky.

Next up, Cheerios. Although it is made with 100% whole grain and has 3 grams of fiber per serving, its third ingredient on the list right after modified corn starch is…you guessed it, sugar. Salt is a quick follow with ingredients that I can’t spell, pronounce or define. Good rule of thumb, if you can’t pronounce it don’t eat it. Especially for breakfast. You’re doing us better than Special K, Cheerios, but still not ideal.

Looking to Kashi Go Lean Crunch. Doing our bodies better with 8 grams of fiber, yet #3 and #4 on the ingredient list is sugar, although Kashi calls #3 “evaporated cane juice” and #4 “brown rice syrup.” Make no mistake, these two are simple sugars. To its merit it contains seven whole grains and all natural ingredients making it the best of the cereals evaluated here.

But what’s better than the best? Why oatmeal of course! Made from hulled oats, single-ingredient oatmeal is made with minimal processing (steel cut are even less processed than rolled, however they take longer to cook.) Add a dash of cinnamon for flavor and nutrition and a couple tablespoons of ground flaxseed or crushed walnuts for essential Omega-3s, protein and fiber. A bit of honey, agave nectar or some raisins if you’d like more sweetness, all for a fiber-rich, cholesterol-free, whole and energy packed breakfast. Feel free to venture into oatmeal mixed with barley, rye, and other whole grains for variety.

Just because something claims to be nutritious on the box, doesn’t necessarily mean it is. Michael Pollan writes in his book In Defense of Food that he is skeptical of packaged foods making health claims and instead relies on real food from nature with natural occurring nutrients instead of vitamins and fiber added in a factory.

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