Starting the day with a good breakfast fuels your body for work or exercise, is linked to having a healthier body weight, and can be an easy way to increase your intake of dietary fiber. But if you eat cereal for breakfast, then avoid the sugar bombs – the ones that are loaded with sugar while being low in protein and fiber.
Cold Breakfast Cereals
Breakfast cereals are not all the same! They can vary tremendously in fiber, sugar, protein and calories. If you enjoy cold breakfast cereal, then consider choosing one that is high in fiber (≥ 5 grams), low in sugar (≤ 5 grams), contains protein (≥ 5 grams) and does not contain partially hydrogenated oils (trans fats).
One teaspoon of table sugar contains 4 grams of sugar; whereas one teaspoon of honey contains 6 grams of sugar. To help you meet the American Heart Association’s recommended daily limit of added sugars (25 grams for women, 38 grams for men) it is a good idea to choose low-sugar cereals. Breakfast cereals for adults and children alike are often high in added sugars. Be a smart consumer and check the Nutrition Facts panel (nutrition label) for sugar grams.
Here is a brief list of cold cereals that are high in fiber, low in sugar and provide at least 5 grams of protein (per ¾ cup serving):
Shredded wheat (plain, not frosted)
Kashi GoLean Original
Kellogg’s Special K Protein Plus
Nature’s Path Optimum Slim
Dairy and Non-Dairy Beverages
One of the benefits of eating cold breakfast cereal is that we typically consume some type of milk with it – which is a good source of protein, vitamins A & D, calcium, B12 and riboflavin.
Cow’s Milk. One cup of milk provides 8 grams of protein and 12 grams of carbs in the form of lactose sugar. Calories from milk will vary with fat content. Whole milk contains an extra 72 calories from fat (which is mostly saturated) compared to skim milk. For the extra calories, you get great flavor but you don’t get more nutrients since skim milk is fortified with vitamins A & D - the fat soluble vitamins that are lost when the fat is skimmed. Ideally, work down to 1% or skim milk to save on calories and saturated fat.
Lactose is a naturally occurring sugar in milk and is NOT considered an “added sugar.” For more information on lactose, see an earlier blog post. Note that flavored milk does have added sugars, so avoid those to help limit both calories and added sugars.
Soy Beverages. Limit added sugars by choosing plain or regular vanilla regular rather than the sweet flavors such as chocolate, strawberry, and extra vanilla. In terms of nutrients and protein content, this is the closest beverage to cow’s milk.
Rice, Almond and Hemp Beverages. Unless you choose plain or unflavored, most of these beverages will contain more calories than cow’s milk – mostly from added sugar grams. They are also lower in protein than cow’s milk or soy beverages. However, they are all fortified with vitamins A & D, calcium, and B12. These are great non-dairy substitutes for those with milk and soy allergies.
If your favorite cereal is high in fiber, low in sugar, but also a bit low in protein, then consider using Greek yogurt as your “milk.” Greek yogurt is high in protein and 0% fat versions are also low in calories.
If you can’t give up your sugar bombs, then consider “cutting” a small amount of these (e.g. 2 tablespoons) into a healthier low-sugar cereal.
Granolas are typically high in calories due to high fat and sugar content. Unfortunately, many brands use partially hydrogenated oils.
Cereals with added dried fruit will typically be high in calories and sugars, some of which are from the fruit and some of which are added.
Choose a low-sugar cereal and add your own dried or fresh fruit so that you can better control your calories, carbs and sugar intake.
You can track sugar grams in MyNetDiary. Although total sugar grams will not tease out “added sugars,” a good rule of thumb is to aim for less than 25% of total calories coming from sugars.
Disclaimer: Please note that we cannot provide personalized advice and that the information provided does not constitute medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, please visit a medical professional.