Top Foods to Avoid #4: Breakfast Cereal

So far, I’ve shared my reasons for avoiding coffee creamer, peanut butter, and soda. The next offender on my list might actually surprise you: breakfast cereal.

In theory, cold breakfast cereal seems great. It’s cheap, fast, and many claim to be “low-fat,” “high-fiber,” or “lower-cholesterol.” I grew up on cereal, just like you probably did. So what’s the big deal? I’ll explain my dislike for breakfast cereal in four points:

# 1. Measly serving sizes.

Check the nutrition label on your cereal box. Is the serving size ¾ cup? Are you actually going to limit yourself to that? Not me! Our bowls hold at least two cups. That wimpy ¾ cup is just enough to make me hangry!

# 2. Carb content and added sugar.

In my blog on sodas I mentioned that every packet of Domino® sugar contains 4 grams of sugar. Remember that the next time you read the nutrition facts on a box of cereal. Then consider the manufacturer’s serving size compared to what you are actually going to eat. I recently checked out the nutrition facts for Kellog’s® Raisin Bran Crunch for a patient who assumed this high-fiber, low-fat choice was a healthy one. One cup of the cereal has 45 grams of carbohydrate, 19 grams of which are SUGAR. (19/4 = about five packets of sugar!) This is before you add milk (which has lactose, another word for sugar). If you top your cereal with fruit, you’re adding even more sugar. This is why I often say that cereal is “sugar, with sugar, topped with more sugar.” TIP: Read the ingredients, they are listed in order of weight. See how many sugars and syrups show up! This is the ingredient list for Raisin Bran Crunch:

SIX different forms of sugar, folks. NOT including the starch/grains…

#3. Exaggerated marketing claims.

“But, Stacie, it’s low-fat and has so much fiber!” You know what else is low-fat with fiber? Vegetables. And fruit. And –sweet-potato. But we usually don’t market that with flashy font and bright colors on a fancy box.

For example, the bright blue banner on this Cheerios® box might make you think Cheerios themselves are a cholesterol-lowering godsend. But isn’t it really the fiber that lowers cholesterol? There are much healthier ways to get your fiber.

# 4. Poor macronutrient balance.

Macronutrients are “big” nutrients, or the ones that give us calories (protein, carbohydrates, and fat). Cereal is mostly carbohydrate (oats, rice, bran, etc.), even before added sugar. If you add milk, it’s true that you’ll get a little extra protein, but milk also has carbs! For 8 ounces (1 cup) of milk, you get 8 grams of protein and about 12 grams of sugar. That’s just 1 gram of protein per ounce. Compare that to meat, or an egg, that has 7 grams of protein per ounce. For how much carbohydrate you’re getting when you eat cereal, the protein content of this meal is pretty low. Think you’re getting tons of protein from nuts in cereal? Well, because of how nuts are usually packaged and added to cereal, chances are you’re getting only slivers and shards – not nearly the same amount of protein that a small handful of whole nuts will provide. Although manufacturers are adding more protein and nuts to their cereals, the carb content is still usually through the roof.

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If you’re feeling sad—like I ruined your favorite childhood breakfast—don’t worry. Here are some simple and delicious foods you can swap instead of cereal. These breakfast foods are lower in sugar, high in fiber, and may help you better balance your calories.

  • 1-2 pieces of wheat toast (I recommend Ezekiel® bread), ½ avocado, and 2 eggs (any style). Slice the avocado and split it between the two pieces of toast. Top each piece with an egg. Delicious and very filling!
  • ½ cup sweet potato hashbrowns; 1 link chicken sausage (I like Bilinski®’s), spinach, and 1 fried egg. Prepare hashbrowns according to the recipe. Cut the sausage into rounds and brown them in a pan; add spinach until wilted. Top hashbrowns with the sausage. Fry an egg and top the sausage. This one is Paleo and Whole30 friendly!
  • How about an omelet? Fill it up with leftover vegetables from last night’s dinner and have a side of fruit. Paleo and Whole30 friendly as well.
  • For more ideas, check out this “Build a Better Breakfast” blog!

Join me next week for the next (and last) food on my list!

– True Health Clinical Health Consultant Stacie Wheatley, MA, RD, LD

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For more information on nutrition for exercise and other lifestyle tips, contact True Health Diagnostics at 877-443-5227 to set up an appointment with a Clinical Health Consultant.

All True Health Diagnostics materials are provided for your information only and may not be construed as medical advice or instruction. No action or inaction should be taken based solely on contents of this information. Readers should always consult the appropriate health professional on any matters related to their health