Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Thinking Outside the (Cereal) Box

Image via At the Brown’s

Walking down the cereal aisle in the grocery store can resemble something close to MTV's Gauntlet. Colorful boxes with catchy names, nutrition claims and promises of prizes line the shelves from the floor to over your head. With so many to choose from, it can be tough to differentiate the “yummy but bad” from the “yummy and good”.  Ignore the bold claims on the front of the box.  Kid-enticing boxes are the name of the advertising game. Cereals with uber-sweet names and graphics like Honey Smacks, Count Chocula and Apple Jacks are directly marketed to children and are placed at kids' eye level.

Some boxes are able to even fool parents, claiming they contain fruit, have increased fiber or whole grains and come vitamin- and mineral-fortified and "mother approved".

Before grabbing the first (or second) colorful box that captures your attention, stop.  
Turn the box to the nutrition label and ingredients list. Therein lies the truth. This little panel gives you lots of information, a clearly stated nutritional breakdown and a list of ingredients.  Begin by focusing on a few important statistics: serving size, sugar, carbohydrates and fiber content.  Also pay attention to serving size.

The biggest nutritional issue that most cereals have is the sugar content. Choose cereals that have less than 8 grams of sugar per serving. A good rule of thumb is a four-to-one ratio of carbohydrates to sugar. So if the total carbohydrate line says 24 grams, sugar should fall into a value of 6 grams or less. Check the ingredient list. First on the list should be whole wheat, whole-grain corn, etc., and all other sources of fiber. Sugar should appear last on the list. Fructose syrup, corn syrup, glucose, agave nectar, cane sugar, molasses, honey, malt syrup and brown sugar are just a few types of sugar used in cereals. Avoid saturated and trans-fats that are generally listed as coconut oil or cottonseed oil.

The grams listed below refer to the amount of grams of sugar per serving

Kix (1-1/4 cup) - 3 grams - 10% (by weight)
Life (3/4 cup) - 6 grams - 19%
Wheaties (3/4cup) -  4 grams - 15%
Cheerios (1 cup) - 1 gram - 4%
Corn Flakes (1cup) - 2 grams - 7%
Corn Chex (1 cup) - 3 grams - 10%


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