Looking Good (for a mom)

has been moved to new address


You will be automatically routed to the new site...please update your bookmarks.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Breakfast Cereal - Healthy? Or not?

I received a gift subscription to Nutrition Action Health Letter from a colleague last year. The magazine is published by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), an independent nonprofit consumer health group. I like to think of them as the Consumer Reports for nutrition and food products.

In this month's issue, they had an entire feature on breakfast cereals, focusing in particular on which are whole grain. Remember my post about sneaky food labeling tactics? Well, breakfast cereal manufacturers are among the worst in the industry, labeling their products as being "made with whole grains" when they are made primarily with refined grains, but have a negligible amount of whole grains. Others add isolated fiber to boost the fiber grams on the Nutrition Facts chart when there is little intact fiber in the cereal.

A few surprising and helpful things I learned:
  • Grape Nuts, a veritable staple in the diets of healthy people, actually is only a little over 50% whole grain. Nutrition Action suggests Kashi 7 Whole Grain Nuggets as a real whole-grain alternative.
  • Many cereals that have "chocolate" in them actually make fake chocolate out of sugar, partially hydrogenated palm kernel oil, and cocoa. What's sad is that real chocolate would actually be healthier.
  • As I mentioned, many brands add isolated fiber, even though the studies that suggest that eating whole grains lowers the risk of heart disease and diabetes measured those risks in people eating INTACT fiber, not isolated fiber.
  • Some types of isolated fiber (avoid or at least discount the amount of fiber) to look for in the ingredients are inulin (chicory root extract), oat fiber, soy fiber, maltodextrin, starches (corn, wheat, tapioca), polydextrose, psyllium, and gums (arabic, guar, acacia).
  • Kashi brand is actually owned by Kelloggs. So discount any ideas you may have that it is a green or healthy brand. It's just another major brand with some good and healthy products, and some misleading or unhealthy ones.
I recognize that all of this information may increase the amount of time you spend in that dreaded cereal aisle, while you check labels and ingredients looking for the best cereals for you and your family. So now might be a good time to ask the question...why eat cereal for breakfast at all?

Studies showed that eating protein-rich breakfasts (instead of carbohydrate-rich breakfasts) reduced hunger longer, and dieters ate 400 fewer calories, on average, over the next 24 hours. So while a whole grain cereal with skim milk is a decent breakfast (especially with some fruit), by no means is it the holy grail of breakfasts! That title belongs to the egg. Yep, you heard me right, eggs. Sure, eggs are high in cholesterol, but a study of men with normal cholesterol levels showed that eating two eggs a day does not raise your cholesterol levels.

So eat away! A 2-egg omelet with sauteed vegetables is a well-balanced and great start to your day. Some other great options:
  • Oatmeal (not instant) with fruit or even canned pumpkin
  • Yogurt (especially greek yogurt) with fruit and granola
  • Cottage cheese with fruit and nuts (if you follow my twitter feed, you know this is my favorite breakfast!)
  • Whole wheat toast with peanut butter
Trust me, all of these are JUST as easy as a bowl of cereal, if you do a little preparation the night before. If you can't let go of eating cereals, stick to the ones that are 100% whole grain and low in sugar and fat. The May 2009 issue of Nutrition Action can help you find the best ones, if you want to save yourself the stress of label reading!

If you've found something healthy and tasty for breakfast, I'd love to hear about it!


  1. Good post. Liked very much the oatmeal with canned pumpkin. Pumpkin is a great source of magnesium and has anti-inflammatory benefits. Not to mention the oodles of fiber.

  2. Glad you enjoyed the post! I have to give credit where credit is due, though. The pumpkin oatmeal idea came from my friend Abby of the "I'm not neurotic" blog I have listed in my blog list.

    So thanks, Abby, for your awesome and always yummy sounding pumpkin oatmeal idea!

  3. You're welcome! :) I posted my recipe for pumpkin cheesecake ice cream the other day. Love, love pumpkin!

  4. Hi Liz, nice post! I've been cereal free myself for around 4 months now and I don't even miss it at all. My favorite breakfast these days are Tabitha's pancakes, with some Hormel Natural Sliced Turkey (got the idea from you), and one Omega-3 egg - yum!