Breakfast Cereals

• Stocking up for quick breakfasts? Choose from the huge variety of ready-to-eat breakfast cereals. Besides being fortified with vitamins and minerals, you'll also find many high-fiber cereals. Because cereals use different parts of the grain—bran, germ, and endosperm—in differing amounts, their nutritional content varies. Use the Nutrition Facts to compare.

Adding milk or yogurt makes cereal a great vehicle for delivering calcium and other nutrients in milk. For this reason, cereal labels often give the Nutrition Facts for cereal only and for cereal with added milk.

When buying sweetened cereals, use the same criteria for choosing any cereal—sweetened or unsweetened. Read the Nutrition Facts for the nutrient and fiber content in one serving, then make your choice. Sweetened cereals are no more cavity-promoting than unsweetened cereals; both starches in all kinds of cereal and sugars can linger on tooth surfaces and promote cavities. Choose the cereal that matches your family's preferences and needs, and encourage good oral hygiene.

  • Look for clues to breakfast cereals with more fiber. They may carry label terms such as "high fiber," "whole grain," or "bran." If the label gives a nutrient content claim, check the Nutrition Facts for specific nutrient information. Cereals that are good fiber sources supply at least 2.5 grams of fiber per serving; whole-grain cereals typically have more. The ingredient list reveals the whole grains and bran in the cereal's "recipe."
  • Check the nutrients in fortified cereals. Most supply about 25 percent of the Daily Value for vitamins and minerals. And some have much more—100 percent—making these cereals comparable to a nutrient supplement. Remember, a variety of other foods supply these nutrients, too. Like any food, consider fortified cereal as part of your whole day's eating plan.

Like many other breakfast cereals, bran cereals usually are fortified. Although high in fiber, bran lacks the vitamins and minerals supplied by the germ portion of grain.

Tip: Because many vitamins and minerals may be sprayed onto cereals, they can be lost if all the milk in the bottom of a cereal bowl isn't eaten along with the cereal. Drink your "cereal milk"!

• Check the variety of cooked cereals, too: Cream of Rice, grits, rolled oats, and toasted wheat. Many are whole grain.

Think cooked cereals take too long to prepare? With today's packaging, you'll find microwave instructions for quick prep. Many to-be-cooked cereals—oatmeal, grits, Cream of Wheat—are "instant" varieties. The nutritional content is comparable to their traditional counterpart, although sodium may be higher in instant cereals. Read the label to compare.

• Check the Nutrition Facts on cereal labels. The nutritional content varies from product to product, brand to brand. "Natural" cereals or granola may have more fat, sugars, or sodium than you'd think; many contain more saturated fats from palm and coconut oils. For something different, try muesli, made with grains, nuts, and dried fruit.

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