Are Breakfast Cereals Healthy?
Turn on the TV for more than 30 minutes and you are bound to see a commercial for some magical cereal that help you lose weight and get healthy fast. But are these cereals really healthy, or are they just a gimmick that tastes good but doesn’t deliver?
To really analyze the nutritional value of cereals such as Special K, Total and Raisin Bran, one must first understand how to interpret nutritional labels. The first thing you should look out for is a cereal with lots of fat (more than 3 or 4 grams per serving). Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, look at the amount of carbs in the cereal. Preferably, there should be less than 30 or so grams of carbohydrates per serving, except perhaps in several cases. But most importantly, above all else you should look at the serving size, and I will show you why with this simple picture below.
So to the left we have the nutritional information of a popular kids cereal (Cocoa Puffs). WOW! Its so healthy, with only 110 calories 1.5g of fat and 23g of carbs! Oh, wait a second. The serving size is a measly 3/4 of a cup, which is just about enough to feed a baby. If you’ve ever eaten Cocoa Puffs, you should know that 3/4 of a cup is about half a bowl of cereal. So really, when you eat a bowl of Cocoa Puffs, you are getting at least 220 calories, 3g of fat and 46g of carbs (with 24g of pure, refined sugar). And thats just for a small bowl with no milk.
But that’s for a bowl of sugary kids cereal. So just how do “healthier” alternatives stack up against Cocoa Puffs? Fortunately, cereals like Special K and Total ARE healthier, but not as much as they would like you to think. But before we get to them, I would like to mention the biggest offender of all the “healthy” cereals: granola.
So here we have the nutritional information of some pretty typical granola. Look at that serving size! Now, to be fair, granola tends to be dense so really an average person would still probably only eat a bowl with 2 servings (1.33 cups), maybe even a little less. But still, that’s 420 calories, 6 grams of fat and 82g of carbs. With that information, I’m just going to come out and say it: granola is NOT a good weight loss food.
As for those other cereals like Special K, Total, etc, the news is a little brighter. The first cereal up, Special K, is actually reasonably healthy. In its somewhat respectable serving size of 1 cup, there are only 117 calories, 0.5g of fat and 22g of carbs. Next, we have Total, which is absolutely packed with vitamins and minerals, but unfortunately as a measly serving size of 3/4 of a cup.So while Special K isn’t so bad, Total really will not help you achieve your weight loss goals very effectively. As for Raisin Bran, the serving size is decent at 1 cup, but the actual nutrition in that cup is not so spectacular. With 46g of carbohydrates per serving, I really cannot recommend Raisin Bran.
Now that you understand a bit about the nutrition of cereal, hopefully you can go out into your local grocery store and buy a cereal that will actually help you stay healthy or lose weight. Try to look for cereals with serving sizes of 1 cup and higher, as well as having low carbohydrates and fat content. Tomorrow I will be following up with a post of the top 10 most healthy cereals, but for now, good luck eating