With the market for breakfast cereal so saturated it can be difficult to know what the best and healthiest option is to choose from, especially when choosing for your kids.
Choosing to eat breakfast cereal can be an easy and convenient option for a lot of parents. It is important to mix up the variety of breakfast options to enhance your nutrition and aim for a balanced diet, however knowing that so many people do like to include cereals as breakfast options, this blog aims to educate you when doing so.
Why choose to eat breakfast cereal?
Choosing cereal that contains dietary fibre is a helpful way to support your daily intake. Eating enough fibre supports a healthy digestive system, promotes regular bowel movements, enhances immunity and reduces inflammation in the gut (1).
Cereals are often fortified; they usually contain riboflavin, iron, niacin, vitamin B6, thiamine, vitamin D, B12 and folic acid.
- Riboflavin (vitamin B2) – this is essential for supporting normal cellular function, helping with energy production, as well as reducing oxidative stress and inflammation in the body (2)
- Iron – this helps to produce red blood cells that carry oxygen around the body, as well as being important for healthy brain development and growth in children (3)
- Niacin (vitamin B3) – this supports brain health, converts nutrients into energy, creates and repairs DNA and has antioxidant effects on the body (4)
- Vitamin B6 – supports enzymes in the body to carry out important bodily functions, and support immune and brain health (5)
- Thiamine (vitamin B1) – this vitamin helps with growth and function of cells, helps to convert nutrients to energy and maintain a healthy nervous system (6, 7)
- Vitamin D – this vitamin regulates the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body, which help to support the development and maintenance of healthy bones, teeth and muscles. It also helps to reduce inflammation and assist with cell growth and immune function (8)
- Vitamin B12 – this is another essential vitamin that supports the development of red blood cells and DNA, as well as helping with the formation and development of the brain and nerve cells (9)
- Folid acid (vitamin B9) – helps to maintain a healthy nervous system, works with vitamin B12 with the formation of red blood cells and supports the growth and function of cells (10)
However, there are so many breakfast cereals that contain little amounts of fibre and have high sugar and salt content that it can be hard to know which is the healthiest option to choose from.
What to look out for when choosing a healthy breakfast cereal?
Ideally, when choosing a healthy breakfast cereal you want to aim for one that is high in fibre and low in sugar and salt. Looking at the back of pack nutrition label will help you to understand which cereals are healthy and which are not.
Information on a nutrition label is given per 100g or 100ml, or per portion (11).
The information provided includes:
- Energy in kilojoules (kJ) or kilocalorie (kcal)
- Fat (g)
- Saturates (g)
- Carbohydrates (g)
- Sugars (g)
- Protein (g)
- Salt (g)
When looking at the sugar content per 100g of cereal:
Low – <5g
Medium – 5 -22.5g
High – >22.5g
The sugar found in cereal is classed as free sugars, which just means sugars that have been added rather than naturally existing in the food. Remembering the sugar intake recommendations for you and your kids is a helpful tip for choosing a healthy cereal option (12):
- Adults should have no more than 30g free sugar/day (equivalent to 7 sugar cubes)
- Children 7-10 years should have no more than 24g free sugar/day (equivalent to 6 sugar cubes)
- Children aged 4-6 year should have no more than 19g free sugar/day (equivalent to 6 sugar cubes)
When looking at the salt content per 100g of cereal:
Low – 0.3g
High – 1.5g
It is important to remember that when you are looking at the salt contents of cereal, remembering the overall salt intake recommendations for you and your little one is helpful when making a choice on cereal (13, 14):
- 1-3 years – no more than 2g/day
- 4-6 years – no more than 3g/day
- 7-10 years – no more than 5g/day
- 11 years and over – no more than 6g/day
Some examples of low sugar cereal options include:
- Rolled Porridge Oats
- Shredded Wheat
- Wholegrain Puffed Spelt
- Wholegrain Puffed Rice Cereal
- Whole Earth Organic Cornflakes
When looking at the fibre content of cereals, 6g of fibre per 100g is considered a high fibre option, compared to 3g or more per 100g which is considered a source of fibre. Cereals that contain fruits, nuts and seeds and wholewheat or bran cereals will be considered a high fibre or good source of fibre option.
Hopefully this blog post will help you when choosing which cereal to buy. Now you know what to look out for, choosing a healthy breakfast cereal can be easy. Cereals that have a high fibre content above 6g per 100g, a low sugar content of <5g per 100g and low salt content are the healthiest cereal options you can opt for.
Contribution by Associate Nutritionist, Georgia Spence BSc ANutr