Friday
Jan212011

Trouble in the Cereal Aisle

In “The Whole Darn Grain” I promised to visit the local grocery store and list the package cereals that met our Healthy Change #3: 

This rule is a simple device for selecting healthy breakfast cereals.  It works for processed foods as well.  Some, for example, have noticed that their “whole wheat” bread has more added sugar than fiber.  (Stay tuned; in a later post we’ll look at healthy breads.)

If you're wondering where to find the sugar and fiber amounts on your cereal at home, see the nutrition facts on the side of the cereal box. Under "Total Carbohydrates" it lists the fiber and the sugar (see the area circled in green below).

The logic behind this Healthy Change follows the daily dictums of three whole-grain servings and limited sugar consumption (6 tsp. max for women, 9 tsp. max for men, per the AHA).  Plus you get all the other benefits of whole grains, including fiber.  When little sugar is pre-added, the cereal can be sweetened and upgraded by adding fresh fruit in the home.

Here are the 8 cereals that met our rule and 5 that were close, out of the 128 package cereals inspected in a local store (Ralph’s, the cereal section was 60 feet long!).  The first number is the grams of fiber, the second is the grams of sugar:

     Nature’s Path Flax plus Multibran,  5/4

     Weetabix Whole Grain Biscuit, 4/2

     Kashi Go Lean Original, 10/6  (Soy is 1st ingredient listed.)

     Kashi Heart to Heart, 5/5

     Post Grape Nuts, 7/5

     General Mills Kix, 3/3

     Post Shredded Wheat (spoon size), 6/0

     Ralph’s Shredded Wheat (spoon size), 7/<1

     Kellogg’s All Bran, 10/6

     Ralph’s Bran Flakes, 5/5

     General Mills Cheerios, 3/1

     Ralph’s Toasted Oats, 3/1

     General Mills Wheat Chex, 5/5

For the typical family concerned about health and value, hot cereals cooked at home from bulk whole grains are the best choice.  You can buy grains for a dollar or less per pound versus paying three to five dollars a pound for the less-healthy packaged cereals.  Keep a package or two of the store-bought cereals for occasional variety or when you’re unusually rushed. 

If you have a favorite healthy package cereal not on this list, please comment. It may not have been in the store we checked.

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Reader Comments (30)

I think someone commented last time on how Kashi prides itself on being healthy, but of the three Kashi cereals in my cabinet only the Heart to Heart (which has equal numbers for fiber and sugar) came close to meeting this guideline. And Honey Nut Cheerios which has been pushing the idea lately that it will help lower your cholesterol, doesn't come close to meeting this guideline. A great reminder that just because a food is good in one area, doesn't mean it's without pitfalls.

January 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterT. Crockett

Your blog has helped me so much! I love eating well, but have such a busy crazy family that I easily let go of our goals and lose focus. Your posts give me the little reminder I need to keep going, and make more of an effort. They are SO informative! Our mornings are hectic, so cold cereal is our breakfast of choice. I stand in the cereal aisle forever, with despair, because I don't know what to choose that won't kill us. This Healthy Change is just what I need. THank you for your blog!!!

January 22, 2011 | Unregistered Commentercally

I am loving this blog! It is all the information that I have needed to really start eating the way I should. I am actually excited rather than overwhelmed like I usually am when I set a goal to eat better. Thank you!

January 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKristin

What a fantastic blog! So happy to have found it and am truly looking forward to more posts.

January 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterEmily

I know I could have checked myself, but I've totally been waiting to see what you found! I was hoping Grapenuts was on the list as it is probably my favorite cereal to dress up with fruit.

I'm really enjoying your blog. It gives me a lot to think about and work on during the week.

January 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAng

Fascinating. Our criteria are:
1) no high-fructose corn syrup
2) no hydrogenated fat
3) low sugar.

I checked our cereal boxes, and also have Weetabix and Cheerios.

But the Crispex doesn't meet your criteria. And we also often have Rice Chex and Corn Chex, which I am assuming would also fail your test.

We've been making our own buckwheat pancakes in the morning, and we're about to start making our own granola.

Perhaps we can start phasing out the Crispex too.

January 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLucy C.

First, I just want to tell you this is a great blog! I'm also LDS and have been working on getting myself healthier. A lifestyle change, not just a diet. I love having the Word of Wisdom as a clear cut way to living a healthy life.

I really like the multi-grain cheerios, but I honestly haven't ever checked the label. I'm sure it isn't a very healthy choice considering they are "lightly sweetened". I've tried this past month to cut out most sugar from my diet. It's worked great and I've only given in twice to something not so good for me. My next battle - white flour. That'll be a tough one!

January 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRikki

i am loving this blog! thank you for taking the time to create something meaningful, intelligent and helpful.

January 23, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermegan

I'm in awe that you are kind enough to check the cereal aisle and look into every box for all of us. What generosity! I'm not sure my kids will kick the cereal habit (nor will I completely) but I'm certainly going to have grape nuts, wheat chex and cheerios on hand at all times just in case. I love grape nuts so any excuse to eat them is good enough for me.

Thanks for sharing your efforts. Your blog is great.

January 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAli

This is a great idea. I will certainly be on the look out for this going forward at breakfast time. Also thanks to you, I am seeing the grim reaper when I reach out for that piece of white bread. I LOVE your tag line the whiter the bread.... It's all wheat for me from here on out. Thank You for your supercool awesome blog. Keep up the good work. I'll have my entire family reading your blog soon enough.

January 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMarisa

I just checked my Fiber One Cereal made by General Mills. In a 1/2 cup serving there are 14 g of Fiber and zero sugar.
Glad to have found your blog....thanks for the work you put in!

January 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGail

Uncle Sam, 10/1
This cereal tastes pretty good.

January 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAnne

Hi Skip,
I just have to say your blog is spot on - inspiring, insightful and a little nerve racking! You’re definitely holding me accountable to my food choices and sharpening my knowledge on specific topics such as sugar intake.
I have a predicament for you: I have recently made the switch from dairy milk to oat milk as a means to limit my daily dairy intake. If I remember correctly, I chose the oat milk oppose to soy, rice or almond because it had the highest fiber content. However, after reading your post on sugar I promptly headed to the frig to find that my organic, non-flavored, oat milk has a whopping 19 grams of sugar. Combine that with the 4 grams in my cereal and I’ve almost maxed out my AHA recommended daily sugar intake just with breakfast!
What do you think? Do I say forget about my concerns about overconsumption of dairy, switch to another milk alternative or …? I’d love to hear what you think. Thanks.

January 25, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterholly j

Holly, thanks for the kind words. Staying under the sugar goal is a challenge, but good for your health. Milk is a difficult subject. I like milk, but wish I could buy it from pastured cows. I drink it sparingly. The milk substitutes have their own issues, as you point out. A friend made a suggestion we found odd until we tried it: put orange juice on your cereal. It actually tastes good and I don't mind hand-squeezing an orange or two in the morning. What do you think?

January 25, 2011 | Registered CommenterSkip Hellewell

Thanks for your response, Skip. Orange juice on cereal does sound odd, but so does oat milk! I'll have to give it a try.

January 26, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterholly j

I'm wondering how you feel about High Fructose Corn Syrup. I noticed a few months ago that the All-Bran I was buying for bran muffins puts it third on its list of ingredients, but it does have more fiber than added sugar. What are your thoughts?

January 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa

Melissa I avoid HFCS. For more about the problems with fructose, go the UCTV and see the video, "Sugar, The Bitter Truth". Robert Lustig is the UC professor speaking and he will argue that fructose is toxic. He also says something very interesting about the natural fructose in fruits: "When God puts a poison in the food, He includes the antidote". So in Lustig's view, avoid HFCS, but enjoy fruit. Best, Skip

January 27, 2011 | Registered CommenterSkip Hellewell

I so appreciate the time you've put into this. Thank you for sharing your knowledge...and for spending so much time in the cereal aisle. So helpful. Thank you!

January 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKristen

You can make your own almond milk using a handful of almonds and a quart of water. Blend it until the almonds are almost gone, then strain them out with a nylon sock or any other kind of straining device. It's very good, non-dairy, and nutritious.

February 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKourtney

Thank you so much for this post. My sister in law told me about your blog as we're both trying to make lifestyle changes for ourselves and family. Every time I go shopping, I walk down that cereal aisle with a million things floating around in my head about fiber and fat and sugar and HFCS and try to find something that I feel is healthy and that my kids will like. It's tough. I appreciate this breakdown. The comment on milk was interesting. I've given my kids soy milk for years just to find out there is controversy about it now. I looked at switching to almond milk but there was actually very little protein in it and tons of sugar- especially compared to cow's milk and soy milk. My kids aren't big meat eaters so I hate to cut out milk completely.

Thanks for all the time you're putting into this blog!

February 9, 2011 | Unregistered Commenteramy r

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