Breakfast cereals are undeniably quick, easy, and popular. More importantly, many fit the ideal of low-calorie, high nutrient-dense foods, and research supports the notion that ready-to eat cereals can improve children’s overall nutritional well-being, lower their risk of becoming overweight, and even contribute to improved brain power. Especially when paired with milk, cereals in general are one of the biggest sources of some very important nutrients in children’s diets, including fiber, folic acid, vitamin C, iron, and zinc.
That said, it’s important to select your children’s breakfast cereals wisely. A recent study examining the nutritional quality of cereals found that cereals created for and marketed specifically to children tend to contain more sugar and sodium and less of the important nutrients. So what does that mean when it comes to serving cereal?
You can still scoop away, but do so with the following goals in mind:
- Look beyond the eye-catching packages of children’s cereal. While cartoon characters can be mighty appealing, cereals not specifically marketed to children tend to contain more fiber and less sugar.
- Find cereals with a fiber content of at least 2 (if not 5) grams per serving.
- Focus on finding cereals that contain no more than 10 to 12 grams of sugar per serving. Think your kids won’t go for it? Think again. A 2011 study of children’s breakfast eating behaviors found, among other things, that children were equally happy with the cereals they were served, regardless of whether they were given high- or low-sugar cereals. Even when children in the low-sugar cereal group added extra sugar, they still ended up consuming far less sugar than the high-sugar cereal group.
- Consider sweetening cereal naturally by simply adding cut up fruits like bananas, strawberries, or peaches. In fact, children served low-sugar cereals are more likely to balance out their breakfasts by adding fresh fruit to their bowls.
- Go for whole grains whenever possible. Fortunately, it’s getting much easier to do so, as many of the major cereal manufacturers are making whole grains more readily available.