How to Pick a Healthy Cereal

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Cereal, that old familiar breakfast staple, is less popular than it once was.

That’s in part because many consumers consider it to be low in protein, high in sugar, and too processed to be healthful, according to the market research firm Mintel. Although that’s true of many cereals, plenty are nutritious.

Plus cereal is quick and convenient, and can be an efficient way to get many essential nutrients all at once, says Ronni Chernoff, Ph.D., director of the Arkansas Geriatric Education Collaborative.

For breakfast she recommends covering four bases: fruit, protein, a complex carbohydrate, and dairy. Have a whole-grain cereal with milk topped with fruit to hit all four. What follows is everything you need to know to choose a healthy cereal.

Pick a Whole Grain

Look for a “100 percent whole-grain” claim on the box, or read the ingredients list to be sure all grains are whole, such as whole wheat or whole-grain oats.

Whole grains are a great source of fiber. Having fiber in the morning means “you’re not going to be having a hunger attack midmorning,” says Emily Dhurandhar, Ph.D., an assistant professor of kinesiology at Texas Tech University.

Numerous studies have also linked whole grains to a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. They may even help you maintain a healthy weight.

Researchers at Tufts University found that people who replaced refined grains (such as white bread or white pasta) with whole grains absorbed fewer calories and had a slight uptick in their resting metabolic rate compared with people who ate the same diet with refined grains.

Suss Out the Sugars

Even a whole-grain cereal isn’t so healthy if it contains too much added sugar. Kellogg’s Frosted Mini-Wheats, for example, is made from 100 percent whole-grain wheat and has 6 grams of fiber per serving, but it also has 11 grams of sugars, almost 3 teaspoons.

Compare that with Post Spoon Size…

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