Breakfast cereals have created the notion of healthy, nutritious, and balanced for decades. However with recent research, it has been discovered that not all cereals are created equal.
All focus should be on the nutritional facts when evaluating the quality and benefits of a cereal. Marketing labels on the front of the box should always be avoided.
Watch out for portion sizes, as they are manipulated to appear as though eating the cereal is healthy. A small serving size may mask the large amount of sugar, fat, and calories in the cereal, as most consumers will eat more than one serving at breakfast.
Choose cereals with 200 calories or less per serving and look for those that have a serving size of ½ cup to over one cup.
Cereals should be chosen based on their presence of 100% whole grains, such as wheat, brown rice, or corn. Refined grains have very little nutrients and do not contain the vital nutrients necessary for body functioning. Whole grains are digested at a slower rate, making the body feel fuller for longer. If the first or second ingredient in the list is not a whole grain, it should be a general rule to not choose the cereal. These manufacturers try to hide refined grains by labeling them as rice or rice flour.
The presence of whole grains also indicates the existence of dietary fiber. High fiber diets have been shown to decrease the risk for type 2 diabetes and coronary artery disease. You should choose a cereal that contains at least 5 grams per serving.
Watch out for excess sodium hidden in cereals, as you should consume no more than 220 mg per serving. Sugar should also be looked out for, as it can increase the risk for diabetes. Choose a cereal with less than 10 grams of sugar per serving.
Kushi LH, Meyer KA & Jacobs DR Jr (1999) Cereals, legumes, and chronic disease risk reduction: evidence from epidemiologic studies. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 1999. 70(3): 451s –458s (http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/70/3/451s.full)