What is breakfast cereal?
Breakfast cereal is made from processed grains and often fortified with vitamins and minerals. It is commonly eaten with milk, yogurt, fruit, or nuts.
Here’s how breakfast cereals are typically made:
Breakfast cereals may also be puffed, flaked, or shredded — or coated in chocolate or frosting before it is dried.
Loaded with sugar and refined carbs
Added sugar may very well be the single worst ingredient in the modern diet.
It contributes to several chronic diseases, and most people are eating way too much of it.
Notably, most of this sugar comes from processed foods — and breakfast cereals are among the most popular processed foods that are high in added sugars.
In fact, most cereals list sugar as the second or third ingredient.
Starting the day with a high-sugar breakfast cereal will spike your blood sugar and insulin levels.
A few hours later, your blood sugar may crash, and your body will crave another high-carb meal or snack — potentially creating a vicious cycle of overeating.
Excess consumption of sugar may also increase your risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
Misleading health claims
Breakfast cereals are marketed as healthy.
Breakfast cereals are marketed as healthy — with boxes featuring health claims like “low-fat” and “whole-grain.” Yet, their first listed ingredients are often refined grains and sugar.
Small amounts of whole grains don’t make these products healthy.
However, studies show that these health claims are an effective way to mislead people into believing that these products are healthier.
Often marketed to children
Food manufacturers specifically target children.
Companies use bright colors, cartoon characters, and action figures to attract children’s attention.
Unsurprisingly, this causes children to associate breakfast cereals with entertainment and fun.
This also affects taste preferences. Studies show that some children prefer the taste of foods that have popular cartoon characters on the packaging.
Exposure to food marketing is even considered a risk factor for childhood obesity and other diet-related diseases.
These same products often have misleading health claims as well.
While the colors and cartoons make the products more appealing to children, the health claims make the parents feel better about buying such products for their kids.
Selecting healthier types
If you choose to eat cereal for breakfast, here are some tips to help you select a healthier option.
Try to choose a breakfast cereal with under 5 grams of sugar per serving. Read the food label to find out how much sugar the product contains.
Aim for high fiber
Breakfast cereals that pack at least 3 grams of fiber per serving are optimal. Eating enough fiber can have numerous health benefits.
Pay attention to portions
Breakfast cereals tend to be crunchy and tasty, and it can be very easy to consume a high number of calories. Try to measure how much you’re eating, using the serving size information on the packaging for guidance.
Read the ingredients list
Ignore the health claims on the front of the box, making sure to check the ingredients list. The first two or three ingredients are most important, as they comprise the majority of the cereal.
However, food manufacturers may use tricks to hide the amount of sugar in their products.
If sugar is listed several times under different names — even if it is not in the first few spots — the product is probably very high in sugar.
Add some protein
Protein is the most filling macronutrient. It increases fullness and reduces appetite.
This is likely because protein changes the levels of several hormones, such as the hunger hormone ghrelin and a fullness hormone called peptide YY.
Greek yogurt or a handful of nuts or seeds are good choices for extra protein.
Choose unprocessed breakfasts
If you are hungry in the morning, you should eat breakfast. However, it’s best to choose whole, single-ingredient foods.
Here are a few great choices:
Whole eggs are an excellent breakfast choice because they’re high in protein, healthy fats, and nutrients. What’s more, they keep you full for a long time and may even boost weight loss.
One study in teenage girls found that a high-protein breakfast of eggs and lean beef increased fullness. It also reduced cravings and late-night snacking.
Other studies note that replacing a grain-based breakfast with eggs can help you feel fuller for the next 36 hours — and lose up to 65% more weight.