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Decipher Cereal Labels

( Every morning, many people reach for a box of cereal for a quick and easy breakfast option. What’s the problem you ask? Finding a healthy, all-natural cereal is not an easy task. As you walk down the grocery store isle, countless cereal choices stare you in the face. Which do you choose—a kid-friendly package or the one high in fiber? Each cereal claims its own health advantage. Some are high in vitamins and minerals, made with whole grain or are low in sugar. Other make health claims such has lowering the risk of heart disease. The tricky part is being able to decipher all the mumbo jumbo to find the a cereal that is as healthy as possible. But here’s the tricky part. While a cereal may claim to be full of vitamins and minerals, it may also be extremely high in sugar. And another cereal may claim to be made of whole grains, while also being full of artificial colors and flavors.

Contains whole grains. The main base of any cereal is the type of grain they use. You want to look for cereals that are made with whole grains. Some brands will claim that it’s made with whole grains but could contain a small amount. The only way to decipher this marketing scheme is to look on the label. If whole grain is the first ingredient on the list, you’re good to go. Common whole grains used in cereal include whole grains oats or wheat. Also, be wary when you see boxes that advertise how many grams of whole grain they contain. Compare the grams of whole grain to the serving size. A diet with plenty of whole grains will lower your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and weight gain.

Rich in Fiber. Cereals made with whole grain or bran are a good source of fiber. Adults should eat 20–35 grams of fiber a day. Look for a cereal that has at least 5 grams of fiber per serving. If your breakfast isn’t high in fiber, you’re probably not getting enough. Watching your waistline? Fiber helps you feel satisfied for longer, which keeps you from snacking, overeating, and ultimately gaining weight. Fiber also keeps your digestive tract healthy and lowers your risk of heart disease, high cholesterol, and diabetes. When cereal shopping with fiber in mind, beware! Some cereals may advertise high fiber content, but if the cereal isn’t made primarily from whole grains or bran, the fiber in the cereal does little good for your body.

Low in Sugar. If the ingredients listed on your cereal box look like the ingredients listed on your package of cookies, it’s time to switch cereals. Added sugars contain no nutritional value and only contribute to weight gain. A cereal label will tell you how many grams of sugar it contains. However, this number includes both added sugars (HFCS, dextrose, corn syrup) and natural sugars (from whole grains and fruit), so it’s difficult to know how many grams are from natural or added sugars. If a cereal has 20 grams of sugar per serving, multiply that by four (there are four calories in a gram of sugar). This means there are 80 calories per serving just from the sugar. Women should eat no more than 100 calories of sugar a day and men less than 150.

Cereal with real fruit is high in natural sugar, but this is a healthy kind of sugar. Just beware of fake fruits. Look on the nutrition label to find the specific kind of fruit that the cereal claims to contain. Those “strawberries” in your cereal may not be strawberries at all. They may be a ball of food dye, flavoring, and gelatin.

About the author

About the author

Dustin Bogle is a trainer at Kokomo Fitness in Hesperia Contact him at (760) 995-3366 or

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