Cereal is one of the most popular breakfast foods, so much so that there is a whole row at the grocery store dedicated to them. Americans purchase 2.7 billion packages of breakfast cereal each year and consume 160 bowls per person per year. Breakfast cereals are the third most popular product sold in supermarkets, in terms of dollar sales. The five most popular products are 1. carbonated beverages, 2. milk, 3. breakfast cereal, 4. cigarettes and 5. fresh bread and rolls.
The term cereal originally came from grasses cultivated for edible grain. Cereal was one of the world’s first health foods determined to play a role in shaping healthy lives. It marked the beginning of America’s pre-packaged mass marketed products. Unfortunately, what started out to be a health food quickly became an avenue to add more sugar to the American diet. New and improved versions of cereal came out with bright colored mascots and slogans. Characters like “Tony the Tiger” and “Cap’n Crunch” became more recognizable than any American political leader.
Today the breakfast cereal that was created to promote healthy lifestyles is doing quite the opposite. With the majority of cereals now marketed towards children with their brightly covered packages and prizes at the bottom. No wonder obesity and overweight is an epidemic in America. Check the ingredient list and you will find the obvious culprit. The top two ingredients in the majority of cereals are flour and sugar. Can you believe that? Even the second ingredient in corn flakes, a cereal marketed to women trying to drop those extra pounds, is full of sugar. While these women are living off sugar and processed flour of course they are losing weight, they are consuming nothing but empty calories. They are dropping weight and feeling more deprived than ever. This inevitably leads to the crash and backfire, leaving them lost and frustrated. What is even worse is that high fructose corn syrup is one of the next listed ingredients. High fructose corn syrup is nothing but a toxic chemical concoction that affects proper metabolism in the body.
Luckily, there are still brands out there doing what breakfast cereals set out to do, providing a quick and healthy option for breakfast without the added sugar. But be cautious, most cereals advertise that they are healthy while in all actuality, they are comparable to eating a poptart or a glazed donut for breakfast.
How do we navigate the breakfast isle effectively to find the cereal that is indeed healthy and nutritious?
- Read the ingredient list. Make sure the first ingredient is a whole grain and that the ingredients that follow are grains and natural sweeteners.
- Check the Serving size and Calories per serving. The cereal should contain no more than 200 calories per serving.
- Scan the nutrient list for Trans and Saturated fat. The cereal should contain 0g trans fats and less than 2g of saturated fat.
- Look for at least 2g of Protein and 2g of Fiber; the more the better.
- Stay away from cereals with more than 12g of sugar.
Feeling a bit more adventurous? Love to cook? Have some free time in your day to dedicate to your health? Make your own cereal. Here is a recipe to get your taste buds jumping for joy!
Crunchy Breakfast Cereal Yield: 16 Cups
6 c Oats 2 c Whole wheat flour 2 c Packed brown sugar 2 c Flaked coconut 1 1/2 c Chopped pecans 1 c Wheat germ 1 c All bran cereal 3/4 c Oil 3/4 c Water 2 tb Vanilla 1 ts Salt 1 c Raisins 1. Preheat oven to 275°. Grease 2 15x10x1" jelly roll pans. 2. Combine oats, flour, sugar, coconut, pecans, wheat germ and all bran. 3. Mix oil, water, vanilla and salt. Pour over oat mixture; toss to coat. Divide among pans; bake 1 hour, stirring every 10 minutes. Stir in raisins. Store airtight.