I recently came down to the kitchen to catch my husband having a quick bowl of Lucky Charms for breakfast.
While I joked about his breakfast, my wheels were spinning on how to improve it.
It’s true that a lot of people wonder about cereal for breakfast. It seems it is the fast and easy choice. But is it a good one? It’s obviously in my pantry, but we try to limit cereal-eating and remember a few things.
Many cereals are enriched: This means it is a great source of vitamins and minerals, but it is similar to taking a multivitamin. Many people get their best source of iron from fortified cereal. Remember, this kind of iron requires a source of Vitamin C for the best absorption. And iron can be less absorbed when in the presence of calcium. So if iron is a concern, that iron-enriched cereal with milk may not be as well absorbed as a whole egg with whole-grain toast.
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Cereal can be a sugary mess: Or maybe it isn’t. But you have to be aware of the potential and read your labels! Kellogg’s Raisin Bran has 18 grams of sugar in one cup, while Frosted Flakes has 10 grams in ¾ cup. Fruit Loops has 12 grams of sugar in one cup. So you have to compare and consider how big your serving is. You might just eat more Frosted Flakes because they aren’t as filling or more Fruit Loops to fill your bowl. General Mills has decreased the sugars in many of its cereals such as the ever-popular Lucky Charms which has 10 grams of sugar. My favorite, Cinnamon Chex, has 8 grams. But again, that is per ¾ cup serving. Bottom line: read the labels and pay attention to serving sizes. I know it sounds cliché, but I find myself tricked at times so I can understand how other consumers might also overlook labels.
You need protein for breakfast: If you have cereal with milk, have some berries on top for Vitamin C. Then adding a simple protein is very important. It not only helps you stay full, it keeps your energy level high for the morning and helps your body refrain from using muscle proteins for energy. Some simple protein sides include: hard-boiled eggs (1 yolk or less), scrambled eggs or egg whites, Greek yogurt (I like lower sugar versions such as Dannon Light and Fit Greek) and turkey bacon or reduced-fat sausage. A high-protein smoothie, cottage cheese or a high-protein waffle (see recipe below) also work well.
If you can take these things into consideration, cereal is a fine addition to a balanced breakfast, and can be helpful in improving energy and focus throughout the day.
1 cup of oats
1 cup of cottage cheese
1 cup of egg whites
1 ½ tablespoon of ground flaxseed
½ teaspoon baking powder
Blend all ingredients well in blender or food processor. Pour into hot waffle iron (coated well with cooking spray.) Double coat it to make sure, as these waffles can stick! Enjoy hot or freeze flat in a large Ziploc bag. These reheat quickly in the toaster.
1 regular sized waffle (not the thick Belgium style): 75 calories, 8 grams of carbs, 6 grams of protein, 2 grams of total fat, less than one gram of saturated fat