Between packing lunches, walking the dog, showering and just trying to get out the door on time, cooking breakfast can easily fall by the wayside. Americans' easy answer is breakfast cereal. We buy more than 2 billion boxes of the stuff every year. Here's how to pick a healthy cereal.
Breakfast-cereal eaters are more likely to hit their recommended daily requirement for fiber (25 to 38 grams for adults, depending on age and gender), according to a 2014 scientific review. Some brands use added fiber, such as inulin, aka chicory root, which is similar to the quality of the fiber you'd get from grain. But eating whole grains can have additional benefits, such as lower BMI and improved cholesterol levels. Look for whole grains as an ingredient at the top of the list. (All of our picks have a whole grain listed first.)
Along with the more recognizable ingredients—oats, grains, corn—there are a few additives that you may spot that you might not be familiar with. One is the preservative BHT. While considered safe by the FDA, it has been linked with cancer in some studies and lands on approach-with-caution lists by watchdog groups (even when it's just in the packing, as it can migrate into food). A replacement for BHT is mixed tocopherols (vitamin E), a preservative that gets safer ratings.
One more common ingredient to watch for is barley malt extract. That's just another name for sugar—don't let the word "barley" confuse you.
Get Bowled Over: Our Picks
♥ Kashi Organic Sprouted Grains
♥ Kellogg's Raisin Bran
♥ Trader Joe's Triple Berry-O's
♥ 365 Organic Bran Flakes
♥ Uncle Sam Original Wheat Berry Flakes
♥ Barbara's Original Multigrain Spoonfuls
♥ Qi'a Cocoa Coconut Superflakes
Numbers to Look For
Per 3/4-cup serving
Fiber ≥ 3g
Sodium ≤ 200mg
Sugars* ≤ 7 g
*Our sugars cap for cereals made with raisins or dates is 16g to account for their natural sugars. Dried cranberries and dehydrated fruits contain very little natural sugar, so this higher parameter does not apply to these cereals. Read on to find out how to identify natural sugar and added sugar on nutrition labels.