- So Queen
Breakfast cereals (cereals or cornflakes) have become a favorite of many people all over the world, especially those who take good care of their health. But do we pay enough attention to its components?
Here’s how to make sure you buy the healthy product and how to prepare that meal that gives your mind and body the best start to the day.
Breakfast cereals are easy to prepare, and according to the British company “Euromonitor”, Britons spend more on this commodity than most other countries.
But despite its popularity, this cereal has been criticized for its high sugar content in some of its varieties and the way it is marketed in recent years. A recent report by the Food Foundation found that 93 percent of breakfast cereals for children contain high or moderate levels of sugar.
According to the report, Kellogg’s Fruit Loops Marshmallows has the highest amount of added sugar (17 grams per 39 grams, equivalent to 4 teaspoons).
That’s 89 percent of the maximum recommended daily amount of “added sugar”, all added sugars in any form, for a four- to six-year-old.
Overall, the report found no significant improvement in the sugar content of breakfast cereals marketed to children in the past year, although there has been some progress in reducing salt and increasing fiber content.
“Parents often offer their children breakfast cereals and yogurt because they think it is a relatively healthy option,” the report says. “Many of these products are marketed directly to children, but they all lack the proper nutritional value.”
As part of its policy to tackle the obesity crisis, the British government will implement new rules from October that will prevent grain and other products high in fat, salt or sugar from being prominently displayed in stores. (The ban on promotions such as buy one get one free offers has been postponed for 12 months due to the cost of living crisis.)
But in the first place, how do you choose healthy cereals?
Experts say that cereals can be part of a healthy, balanced diet, as many of them are a good source of whole grains (which help prevent disease), fiber (which is essential for a healthy digestive system), vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. But what is written on cereal packages can make it difficult to tell which ones are healthier than the others.
There is no legal definition of breakfast cereals, says Rana Conway, a registered dietitian and member of the Obesity Policy Research Unit at University College London. But manufacturers use the term “pills” on the packaging to encourage us to believe that the product is healthy, which may not necessarily be true.
“You can market anything as a cereal,” says Conway. “In fact, there are some cereals that have a lot of sugar.”
Cereal packages often say things are incorrect, such as the presence of calcium and added nutrients like iron, vitamin D and folic acid. Grains lose some of these nutrients during milling, cooking, and processing and are added back using a method known as fortification.
Other terms such as “extra features” and illustrations of grains or packages of wheat in a non-specific way indicate that the grains inside the package are useful to us.
“Manufacturers do this to create a healthy aura around their products, so we think they’re healthy,” Conway says. “Lots of iron, vitamin D, folic acid, etc. are added to the cereal. But that doesn’t make up for the really high sugar content in some of them.”
The term “whole grain” can also be misleading.
For a product to be labeled as whole, it must contain all the edible parts of the grain: the seed, endosperm, and bran.
In the UK, there is no legal minimum requirement when it comes to the necessary amount of grain a product must contain to be promoted as “whole grain”.
“The thing to be careful about is seeing whole grains on the front of the package and thinking that means they’re healthy because even so, they ‘may contain a lot of sugar,'” Conway says.
The only way to know what breakfast cereal contains and how many healthy ingredients are compared to unhealthy ones is to carefully check the ingredient list and nutrition label. It’s also important to remember that this will not include the milk you add to your cereal.
The nutrition label on cereal packages often shows the percentage of sugar, fat, fibre, salt and other nutrients per 100g.
But the most important information is in the ‘per 100g’ column, says Bhai Van Debur, a registered dietitian and spokeswoman for the British Dietetic Association (BDA).
Suggested serving size on the packaging is determined by the manufacturers and is based on average consumption in nine European countries including the UK. The suggested serving amount ranges from 30 to 45 grams, depending on the density of the grain (toasted rice is less dense than muesli, for example).
The serving amount, says Van Debor, accurately reflects what each person is eating, and if you’re consuming more than the suggested amount, your sugar intake will be much higher than the package suggests. Checking sugar, fat, salt and fiber per 100g column is much more useful.
A Kellogg spokeswoman tells us, serving sizes are not intended to mislead consumers about sugar content. “While we can provide recommended amount information, we cannot control consumer behavior,” she says.
Although it is voluntary, green, red and yellow labels now appear on most cereal packages to give consumers an idea of whether the product contains high, medium or low amounts of fat, saturated fat, sugars and salt.
(Red means high, yellow means medium and green means low).
Again, check that this shows the amount of salt, fat, sugar and fiber per 100g per serving and that the ingredients list is ordered by weight.
“If the first ingredients are sugar, honey or juices, this is an indication that the cereal is likely to have a high sugar content,” Van Debor says. “A scrutiny of the column per 100 grams will confirm this.”
Look for whole grains in the ingredients list as well (it’s best to see whole grains directly at the top of the list).
“Nuts and seeds are great too, because most of us don’t get enough of them in our diet,” Conway says.
When buying cereals for children, be careful reading the consumption rate which is often written as percentages in the per serving column. RIS are the amounts of special nutrients and energy needed for healthy adults and not for children.
“In fact, children’s needs for energy, nutrition and maximum glucose levels vary for children of different ages, and are lower than those of adults,” explains Conway.
“If you look at the RI menu on a box of these cereals, you will see that they reduce the number of calories and sugar a child gets at one meal. I think it is fair to say that this is misleading.”
What is the healthiest option for pills breakfast?
Oatmeal porridge made with water or milk is the best option, according to the non-profit British Heart Foundation. Alternatively, you can make porridge oats in advance at night for the next morning.
Conway says that all types of whole grain oats are healthy, and they’re better than oats that are ground or prepared for a quick preparation.
“If they are ground or processed a lot, nutrients can quickly turn into sugar and go directly to blood sugar levels. Instant types often contain syrups or other sweeteners as well.”
Low-sugar cereals (less than 5g per 100g), such as made from slices or flakes of wheat, are good choices.
Conway says bran flakes are healthy too, especially if they contain dried fruit, which can count toward your body’s five daily requirements.
“I would make sure to avoid anything that has the word ‘honey’ in the name or anything that is frozen, which means it’s high in sugar,” she says.
But before you buy, check the nutritional information and the ingredient list for sugar content. You’ll find different types of cereal, such as bran flakes, that have different amounts of added sugar (they may have more sugar than you think).
Many people think muesli and granola are healthy because they contain whole grains, dried fruits, nuts, and seeds. But choose packages that don’t contain added sugar or salt.
And remember that added sugar can be in the form of honey, syrup, nectar, and anything that ends in “ose,” such as fructose, glucose, and dextrose.
Make your own plate
Dietitian Catherine Kelly says there are simple ways to make any type of cereal healthier.
She suggests, “Breakfast should be rich in fiber, nutrients and antioxidants, so if there is a grain deficiency, add a tablespoon of mixed seeds.” “These seeds can be ground like flaxseeds or whole like pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, or chia seeds.”
For sweetening, add fresh fruit in place of sugar, as well as frozen or liquid berries, a tasty and economical option, and dried fruit also works well. A spoonful of plain or coconut yogurt makes a nutritious topping, too.
“You’ll get some live bacteria that are good for your gut microbiome,” Kelly says.
Less healthy breakfast cereals can also be mixed with oats or another sugar-free type.
You can also make your own mixture by mixing oats with your favorite nuts, seeds and dried fruits or mix the same mixture with coconut oil and spread it on a tray and toast in the oven for a little granola.
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