Cereal for breakfast is fast, cheap, accessible and easy. No wonder so many of us reach for it! However, we need a strong start to our day and cereal isn’t always healthy, nor a reliable energy source. Read below to learn how to choose a healthy cereal, and discover new breakfast options.
HOW TO CHOOSE A CEREAL
There are six essentials I focus on. They are:
- sugar content – best if it’s less than 5 grams or so, no more than 10 grams, and avoid high fructose corn syrup above all
- fibre – at least 5 grams per serving is recommended
- partially hydrogenated vegetable oil – avoid the adverse health effects, check out the most recent info here and here
- protein – you don’t want a big hit of carbs, seek out at least 3 grams
- GMO’s – common cereal ingredients are soy and corn, two of the most commonly used genetically modified foods so it’s worth looking for non-GMO options
- additives and preservatives – avoid BHT, artificial sweeteners, colours and flavours
I also recommend sprouted grains because they are easier to digest, organic ingredients to avoid pesticides, and gluten-free options because gluten sensitivity is common and has a broad range of side effects.
Healthy Cereal Options
I don’t generally recommend cereal for breakfast, but I also acknowledge it’s a convenient, affordable and palatable reality, and sometimes it’s the only thing children will eat. You will need to assess what your health goals are and make informed choices from there. If you have tried other healthy breakfast options and are still left with cereal as the main option, then here are some ideas, keeping the above essentials in mind.
Barbaras – Original Puffins and Cinnamon Puffins
One Degree Organics – Oat O’s, Red Fife Raisin Bran and Ancient Maize Flakes (sprouted grains)
365 – Brown Rice Crisps, Morning O’s and Bran Flakes
General Mills – Cheerios and Total
Post – Shreddies and Grape Nuts
Kashi – 7 Whole Grain Nuggets, 7 Whole Grain Flakes, Organic Autumn Wheat
There aren’t a lot of options here are there?
It’s near impossible to find a brand that covers all the essentials. One may be really high in fibre and low in sugar, but it may also contain GMO’s and preservatives. Another may be free of additives and partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, but high in sugar. And many cereals have far too much soy for my comfort. Soy bumps up the protein content, but it’s highly processed and usually genetically modified, plus it’s known to mess with your hormones. Fermented soy products in moderation are healthy for some people but they are not in cereal, and unfortunately a lot of cereals that otherwise appear healthy because of high fibre and low sugar contents are full of soy, so they were not listed.
A big shout-out to One Degree Organics because they sprout their grains which makes them more digestible and nutrient dense, they use ancient grains which are closer to their natural genetic make-up, they support sustainable farming, and you can trace their ingredients.
There aren’t many healthy gluten-free options unless you go with rice or specifically gluten-free oats as the main ingredient. Rice in cereal is usually puffed so there is almost no fibre, and oats in cold cereal (not the traditional warm bowl of oatmeal) are not common. There is a gluten-free Rice Krispies but if you have that for breakfast be sure to supplement it with additional nutrients. (the traditional Rice Krispies contains barley malt, which contains gluten)
Healthy Breakfast Alternatives to Cereal
There are so many options we could go dizzy with ideas, and although it’s traditional to eat cereal for breakfast here in North America, it’s not necessarily common in other parts of the world. We have been conditioned to eat processed cereal grains for breakfast here so it feels normal, but that doesn’t mean it has to be your normal. There is nothing wrong with eating dinner leftovers for breakfast and including vegetables in your first meal helps you meet the recommended 5 servings for your day. So here are some options and accompanying recipes to replace your cereal if you would like more energy in your day.
- eggs with sautéed greens and a side of avocado (recipe from The Design Files )
- frittata (recipe from My Darling Lemon Thyme)
- breakfast hash (recipe from My New Roots)
- make ahead egg dishes (recipe from Real Food Healthy Body)
- granola (recipe from Against All Grain)
- smoothie bowls (recipe from The Awesome Green)
- savoury bowls of leftovers (recipe from Martha Stewart)
- healthy toast toppings (recipe from Goop and recipe from Half Baked Harvest)
- healthy toppings like smoked salmon or goat cheese on crisps (recipe from Bon Appetite)
- good old protein based smoothies (recipe from Pastry Affair)
- breakfast skillets (recipe from Autoimmune Wellness)
- plain yogurt with honey, nuts and berries stirred in
Quick breakfasts can also be bits and pieces of healthy, uncommon options like a handful of nuts, a side of olives, and half an avocado smashed in olive oil with sea salt and spread on a rice cake. My favourite breakfast is a bowl of arugula with soft goat cheese, olives, avocado and left over protein from dinner the night before, covered in an olive oil based dressing. It keeps my energy up until lunch time and helps me get my veggies and healthy fats in to my diet early on in the day.
I hope this has helped you find some healthy cereal options or new ideas for healthy breakfasts. If you have a breakfast or cereal you love and you would like to share, please leave your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.