National Cereal Day: What Does A Healthy Cereal Look Like?

I get this question a few times a week from readers and clients. Why? Well, for starters so many people are confused about what actually makes a cereal healthy and what to look for in a cereal. They’ve heard all the claims about more protein, more fiber, less sugar, no additives, etc., however when they get to the cereal aisle, they stare dumbfounded at the vast array of brightly colored boxes all promoting a healthy heart, lots of fiber, more protein and more energy. I personally skip the cereal aisle because it’s often a headache to navigate and I order my favorite whole grain organic cereal brands online, which has become so much easier, but that’s a whole other story. When it comes to cereal, how do you know what’s healthy and what’s not? We all know that choosing a box of Nature’s Path organic cereal instead of Fruit Loops is an obvious decision but we often get confused when we see a ton of ‘healthy’ boxes full of advertising and we don’t know which ones to choose!

For me, the first thing I tell my clients is to look at the ingredient list. What is actually in the box you are holding? Is it a bunch of sawdust white floured flakes coated in sugar? If so, put that box back on the shelf where it came from-quick. You always want the first ingredient to be a whole grain. If you’re gluten-free, then it should be a gluten-free whole grain such as rice, quinoa, buckwheat or millet. Then it’s key to look for other wholesome ingredients (whole foods) that aren’t difficult to pronounce. If you can’t pronounce the ingredient list, put it back on the shelf, folks. Chances are your body won’t recognize it as edible food and you won’t feel so energized after all. Sugar is another biggie! Real sugar is not the enemy; I’d rather my clients eat a cereal that has real, whole organic sugar than HFCS (High Fructose Corn Syrup) - everything in moderation. Plus, you can add some nuts and seeds or a drizzle of almond butter in your cereal (which is what I do) to balance your blood sugar and stabilize yourself with healthy fats when you do eat sugar.

The #1 fact for me to look for when cereal shopping (and all food shopping I do for any product I eat, in general) is to make sure the product is certified organic and non-GMO Project Verified. Why? Well, because this way I know that I’m not getting pesticides, herbicides and other chemicals in my bowl of cereal! I’d rather just the whole grains, real food, fresh fruit, nuts or seeds and my milk in my bowl for breakfast, thank you. No chemicals or fake sugars or sawdust flakes in my pantry!

So, how do I shop for cereal and what is my favorite go-to box that I snag each week? I usually shop online or in a health food store in my Manhattan neighborhood and look for brands I can trust that are family owned, so I know they go the extra mile to care about their customers. For example, Nature’s Path Heritage Flakes are by far my client’s favorite go-to breakfast cereal with almond milk and I dig their Crunchy Vanilla Sunrise Cereal with cashew milk, sliced almonds, fresh berries and a touch of cinnamon. There are a bunch of healthy cereal brands in the cereal aisles, I’m just listing one that I happen to enjoy and use myself, but you can be your own expert and find a box that contains hearty and healthy ingredient to nourish you.

The next time you find yourself stressed out about cereal, take a look at the ingredient list and don’t worry about the calories! Your food could have 0 calories but be full of chemicals; calories are not the enemy. The goal is to eat whole, nourishing foods filled with whole grains, fiber, healthy fats and any fun toss-in’s that you’d like such as fresh fruits, nuts and seeds or coconut flakes, which are delicious.

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