Eating Well With Kim: Common Sense and Cereal

By: Kim Beavers Email
By: Kim Beavers Email

Sometimes, when at the grocery store, I get overwhelmed with MARKETING!

Cereal is the thing that has overwhelmed me the most lately and when I am overwhelmed by it all, I figure a few other folks might be as well. This is also typically when I turn to common sense.

So I see some Reese's Cup cereal that says “made with whole grain” and other “dessert-type” cereals that state that they have more whole grain than any other ingredient or you might see one that says “high in fiber."

OK, so then I put this information through my “common sense filter” and here is what comes out:

-If it is made with whole grain it is likely made “with” other things, too. What else is in there?

-If they are trying so hard to market the whole grain aspect of this cereal, it is likely because they are trying to convince me to eat it because it is healthy when it may not be. I mean, you just don’t see those claims on plain ole oats.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind if some of those dessert-type cereals have whole grain and I do think that is great! But when the second ingredient is sugar, then I still treat it as a dessert. I love Reese's cereal and the way Captain Crunch scratches the roof of my mouth when I eat it too fast, but that is NOT a healthy breakfast -- it is a reasonable dessert, though.

In addition, I am very glad fiber is being added to foods. I have mentioned inulin or chicory root before. It is an isolated fiber that has some health attributes and is being added to many food products. However, adding fiber to an unhealthy product is not the same as eating intact whole fiber from whole grain or vegetables. Added fiber reminds me of multivitamins in a way as multivitamins can be very helpful but they do not take the place of whole foods (fruits and vegetables) where the natural vitamins come in a unique package that provides health benefits beyond that which man can duplicate in a pill. Added fiber is good but not better than whole foods with natural fiber.

So how do you decipher these cereal box claims that make your head spin? I’m going to give you some basic rules to go by:

  • 1. One of the fist two ingredients should be whole grain, bran or fruit.
  • 2.Aim for 3 g of fiber or more (Note: If you are choosing a whole grain cereal, it will naturally have some intact fiber, and if additional fiber is added -- great).
  • 3. Choose the lowest sugar cereal in a category. Cereal with dried fruit will always have more sugar than sugar without dried fruit, as the fruit adds some sugar. The labels do not differentiate between added and natural sugar. So compare like cereal with like cereal.
  • The fourth rule is to use your common sense filter when reading marketing claims.


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