Candy or Breakfast? Evaluate Your Cereal
March 3, 2010 18 Comments
The longest aisle in the supermarket is the breakfast cereal aisle. It seems to stretch forever with boxes of so many colors and sizes. How is a person to choose the healthy option?
Obviously, Trix looks more like candy than cereal. It advertises "2 Fruity Colors in Every Puff" and yes, those are created by Yellow #6 and Blue #1. We nicknamed Trix "candy cereal" because of its likeness to, well, candy!
But, General Mills states that Trix is made with whole grain, and it is a good source of calcium and Vitamin D. Is it good for you?
My friend, Hemi, over at Cereal Scan has built a great iPhone App that will evaluate your cereal.
You scan in the bar code and it gives you an objective evaluation of whether the cereal is healthy. If the cereal is unhealthy, it recommends similar cereal that is better for you. Isn't that cool?
For the rest of us that don't have an iPhone, there are some simple things to evaluate about the ingredient list that will help you decide if the cereal is a good choice.
Healthy or Crappy Cereal Test
1. Is the first ingredient whole grain? Trix's first ingredient is whole grain corn. So, Trix survives this test.
2. Is sugar, high fructose corn syrup, molasses, honey the second ingredient? Trix fails here with sugar being the second ingredient.
3. One serving must provides at least 4 grams of fiber. You can remember this one with Four Fiber. Trix has one gram per serving.
So, Trix failed 2 out of 3 and is not a healthy choice (duh). Let's try again with a potentially healthier option.
I have a box of Target brand Rice Krispies in my cupboard. The first ingredient is rice. This is tricky - is this whole grain? Well, if it was brown rice it would be whole grain, so the answer to #1 is no. The second ingredient is sugar - so #2 is no, and it has zero grams of fiber. The rice cereal did worse than Trix!!
Why do these measures matter? All three of these factors are about how nutritious the cereal really is - no matter what the box tells you. Whole grain is better for you because the more nutritious part of the grain is included (see Homemade Wheat Bread.
Too much sugar means that it will burn quickly in your body and you will have a crash before lunch (and need a snack). The amount of fiber is also a reflection of how long it will take your body to process the cereal. You want your cereal to stay with you for a while providing you what you need for your morning.
What to do if you love a crappy cereal? Mix it in with a healthier cereal so you don't feel deprived. Obviously, I own these two boxes of cereal and I deal with my children demanding crappy cereal.
Just like any other treat, I just use less of it and I don't count on it every morning to provide my family sustenance for their day.
Please share your cereal evaluations below.