Even Healthy Cereals Can Throw Calorie Counts For A Loop
Posted November 2, 2006 6:49 a.m. EST
RALEIGH, N.C. — You don't have to be a health expert to know that cereals such as Cap'N Crunch and Lucky Charms are not as healthy as Raisin Bran and oatmeal.
But even among the so-called healthy cereals, it is important to read nutritional labels closely to ensure getting a healthy start to the day.
If cereal eaters are health-conscious, they might check the nutrition label on the cereal box for the amount of calories in a serving, but the calories they get depend on how much cereal is poured into the bowl.
Most cereals list the serving size at between three-fourths of a cup to one cup, but a lot of people misunderstand what that size means, according to Rex Healthcare registered dietitian Natalie Newell. That can be important when watching calories.
Newell helps clients understand proper portion sizes and also helps them make the best choices when it comes to cereals. That means checking labels for high fiber.
"Because fiber takes longer for your body to digest, it's going to stay with you for a longer period of time," Newell said.
Fiber also lowers cholesterol and helps the digestive system. Women should get 25 grams of fiber per day; men should consume up to 35 grams.
Cereals such as Fiber One Honey Clusters can provide up to 59 percent of a person's recommended daily recommendation of fiber in one serving. It has 14 grams of fiber and only 5 grams of sugar.
Newell warns, though, not to confuse it with Honey Nut Clusters, which has 3 grams of fiber and 17 grams of sugar.
Eating cereal without sugar can be an acquired taste, one that many people are slow to acquire, Newell says. But that could be the best way to start a weight loss plan.
Newell recommends oatmeal as a good natural cereal. It's sugar-free, unless you add it. She warns, however, that the process to make instant oatmeal lowers the fiber content, and fiber should be a key health benefit of oatmeal.
Another option is to add fruit, such as strawberries, blueberries or bananas, which contribute flavor and sweetness without adding extra sugar.
Of course, milk adds calories to cereal. One percent or skim milk are healthier options than 2 percent or whole milk, Newell said.
"No one over the age of 2 needs to be choosing whole milk," Newell said.
She says that using lower-fat products, such as milk, is also an acquired taste and might take time. She recommends mixing half a serving of whole milk with half a serving of skim milk and gradually switching to the low-fat option.