Sea Cliff Nutrition Committee. The Apple People

Sea Cliff Nutrition Committee. The Apple People

Friday, June 11, 2010

Breakfast and Grocery Shopping

To wrap up our week on breakfast, we're going to talk about the most popular breakfast of all: Cereal. It's quick, it's easy, kids will eat it -- and they can make it themselves. When you head out to buy groceries this weekend, we thought you might like some tips on what to look for in a cereal. So, here's the advice of nutrition committee member and nutritionist, Kathy Ligure. -Sara

Breakfast cereals vary in terms of nutritional quality with those that are closest to their original whole form being the healthiest choice, e.g./oatmeal or plain shredded wheat. Since the nutritional quality varies from cereal to cereal, even within the same Brand, the best advice is to read labels with an eye towards the following:

Overall Ingredients
Here, typically, less is better. Oatmeal has only one ingredient. In general avoid added colors, flavors or preservative, except natural preservatives like tocopherols (vitamin E).

Whole Grains/Fiber
Check the ingredient list. Since ingredients are listed in order of prevalence by weight, you want to see a whole grain as the first ingredient. The best cereals are going to contain only whole grains. Further, if you’re not sure how much whole grain the cereal contains, check the fiber content. You are looking for at least 5 grams fiber per serving.

In their natural form, whole grains have negligible amounts of sodium. Too much is often added to cereals. In general, cereals with no added salt or cereals that keep the sodium below 150 mg per serving are your best choice—I would not buy any cereal with 200 mg or more per serving.

Consider this, a small 1 & ½ ounce bag of potato chips typically has around 180-200 mg. of sodium, do you really want your breakfast cereal to have as much, or in some cases, more, sodium than potato chips? So…why doesn’t your cereal taste salty? Because it has enough added sugar to cover up the salty taste—chips and other salty snack foods usually don’t have added sugar.

Here again, whole grains typically contain very little, if any, natural sugar. So the sugar you see listed under carbohydrates on the label is all added sugar—the kind we are advised by health experts to limit. If your cereal has added sugar—most of them do—then limit it to no more than 8 grams per serving, the equivalent of 2 tsp/serving. The one exception is cereals with added dried fruit, such as raisins or dates, not berry-flavored sugar covered balls. If there is added dried fruit, you can expect a higher sugar content from the natural sugar found in the dried fruit. Unfortunately, manufacturers do no have to distinguish between natural and added sugars.

Once more, whole grains contain minimal fat. Some cereals will list a small amount of fat from the whole grains (typically less than 2 grams/serving). Some cereals have slightly more, this may be from added nuts and/or seeds (e.g. flax seed). These are healthy additions. Cereals that list fats or partially hydrogenated fats (to be avoided in any food) in the ingredient list should be avoided.

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