Healthy Eating Guide To Cereal

healthy eating guide to cereal healthy breakfast ideas healthy cereal healthy eating kids nutritionCereal is an American breakfast classic that many of us grew up on. Because it’s so easy to prepare and most kids love it, today’s parents continue to buy it week after week hoping to keep breakfast time stress free and to get some nourishment into their children. Depending upon which cereals you choose, you may not be getting exactly what you think you are getting. 

These days buying breakfast cereals can be confusing. Many carry healthy labels or promote some health benefit even if they aren’t the best choice for health. Because of this deceiving labeling many parents can fall into the trap of buying something they think is healthy, but which really isn’t.

To ensure you are buying a healthy product for your family, read labels and look for the following cues:

What a Cereal Should Contain

High Fiber 

A cereal should ideally contain at least 15% fiber per serving size, or a minimum of 5g to 6g of fiber per 30g serving. Some very high-fiber cereals would have over 6g of fiber per 30g serving.

Whole Grains

Whole grains mean that the cereal hasn’t been made with refined grains. Not only do refined grains not have much nutritional value left, they also contain virtually no fiber. To add insult to injury these refined grains also raise blood sugar levels quickly which leads to a host of health problems such as unstable energy levels, insulin resistance and weight gain.

Few Ingredients

Healthier cereals normally contain fewer ingredients on the label. If your cereal has many ingredients listed on the packaging – and any that you can’t pronounce – put it down and look for a better choice.

What to Avoid in a Cereal


Most commercial cereals are full of sugar, with some brands containing more than 50% sugar. All of this sugar reeks havoc on young bodies and should be strictly limited. 

There should be no more than 5 grams of sugar per serving, ideally even less. And look for various forms of sugar on the ingredient list such as high-fructose corn syrup, malt syrup, glucose, fructose, honey, maple syrup, molasses and maltose amongst many others. Sometimes manufacturers add several types of sugar so it can appear lower on the ingredient list.


Many children’s cereals have color added to make them more attractive to young eyes. Children love color and manufacturers know this. However color added to foods can cause many side effects and health problems and should be avoided at all costs. 

If a visual glance at the packaging doesn’t suggest color, you may still want to read the ingredient list to ensure that no color has been added. 


Many cereals have preservatives added to keep them fresh. However many of these preservatives can be problematic and lead to health problems. Two commonly added preservatives are BHA and BHT both of which are implicated in allergies, inflammation and cancers. 

Interestingly these same preservatives have been banned in many countries around the world due to safety concerns but unfortunately are still in used in North America. 

Trans Fats

Some cereals contain very dangerous fats called “trans fats” that should be avoided by any parent interested in protecting the health of their child. To avoid these bad fats read labels carefully and look for the words “hydrogenated oil” or “partially hydrogenated oil”. If you see these terms put the product down – it contains trans fats.  

Keep in mind an interesting fact - the least nutritious cereals are often the most heavily marketed ones to kids. So it is not just important to be conscious of what your kids are eating, but also of what they are watching since this can prompt their requests.  Ultimately though it should be the parents decision on which cereals to bring into the home. 

By Lilian Presti| October 05, 2010
Categories:  Eat

About the Author

Lilian Presti

Lilian Presti

Lilian is a registered holistic nutritionist who has worked in the nutrition and corporate wellness fields for the over a decade. She teaches pediatric nutrition, delivers corporate and public nutrition seminars, runs a weight-loss program, does one-on-one nutritional counseling and writes on nutrition and wellness topics. Since having her son Noa, Lilian has taken a keen interest in educating mom’s to be and new parents about proper nutrition during these special periods. Lilian has been featured in Elle Magazine, Flare, Today’s Bride and The Weekly Scoop, MSN/Sympatico’s Weight Loss Challenge and appeared on City TV.

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