Question for “Ask the Dietitian:” Our family loves cereal…although I’m the only one who eats it with milk! What is your advice on what to look for and/or avoid when navigating the GARGANTUAN cereal aisle??

Cereal can be such a great choice for breakfast and snacks since it is fortified with lots of minerals and vitamins. It literally is like taking a multivitamin. The one criticism that comes with cereal is typically the amount of sugar.

Oatmeal SquaresWhen my husband and I were newly weds and grocery shopping together, he was tired of my “healthy” cereal so he asked if he could pick out the cereal. I said of course, just make sure it doesn’t have a cartoon character on it. To his dismay and I think surprise, he couldn’t find any good (please read sugary) cereal that didn’t have a cartoon character. So if you are not into reading labels, that is an easy way to find cereals that are not too high in sugar. But this rule does not always work, and if your kids are older they may really like the cartoon characters on the box.

With the current “health frenzy” going on, cereal companies have been under a lot of pressure to reduce the sugar in cereals, especially those targeted to children. I am starting to notice more kids cereals that aren’t as high in sugar.

So, when I look for a new cereal it needs to meet the following criteria for me:

  • Less than 10 grams of sugar. (I do make exceptions if it has dried fruit.)
  • 3 or more grams of fiber.
  • First ingredient should be whole grain oats.

CheeriosCurrently, we are eating Oatmeal Squares and Cheerios. Both of these meet the above criteria. Occasionally I will mix 1/2 Fruit Loops and 1/2 Cheerios for a special occasion, and then it will meet the above criteria as well. But when you look at Fruit Loops ingredient list, the first ingredient is sugar. You really want the first ingredient to be whole grain oats. I hope this helps you navigate the cereal aisle.

Let me know. Do you read labels on your cereal or do you just pick a cereal that looks like you would like it?