Breakfast cereals are notoriously confusing to choose from. And the marketing behind them can be very manipulative. With this is mind I have put together a handy guide to making healthier choices with cereals. I hope you find it helpful!
ADVERTISING: Many cereals will tell you lots of positive things to draw you in, particularly childrens’ cereals. Just because it’s wholegrain’, ‘low in fat’, ‘fortified with vitamins and iron’, has ‘no added salt’, ‘no added sugar’, ‘no artificial colours or flavours’, has a healthy sounding name or photos of glowing kids and sprigs of wheat doesn’t mean it’s not high in sugar!
COMPARE BRANDS: Most supermarket brands and Nestle use the helpful ‘traffic light system’ on the front of the packet – this shows whether fat, sugar and salt are high (red – a bad choice), quite high (amber – not a great choice but ok sometimes) or low (green – best choice). Kelloggs hasn’t signed up to the traffic light system – their nutrition info is all in blue – so is the least easy to understand.
SUGAR GUIDELINES: This is the recommended amount of daily sugar for the different age groups (you don’t need to count the sugar naturally present in milk, yoghurt and whole fruit): Adults and Children over 11 years 30g; 7-10 year olds 24g; 4-6 year olds 19g.
BEST AND WORST CHOICES: The best cereals to choose are wholegrain ones (for longer-lasting energy) which are also low in sugar, salt and fat (particularly sugar). So aim for the sugar tab on the traffic light bit to be green. Branflakes, porridge and shredded wheat are all good choices. Although not wholegrain, cornflakes only have 2g of sugar per 30g bowl so are an okay choice some of the time. And definitely better than crunchy nut cornflakes, which contain 12g of sugar per 30g bowl! This is nearly 2/3 of the daily recommended amount of sugar for a 4-6 year old. Cinnamon Grahams and Coco Pops both contain 8g of sugar per 30g bowl. And some mueslis and granolas can be very high in sugar.
PORTION SIZE: 30g is a small bowl and many kids and adults have much more than that for breakfast. Try weighing out the amount you all have and then work out the total sugar – you may be shocked! Note that some cereal boxes (usually those aimed at adults) will tell you how much sugar per 40g/45g so check closely.
MAKING CHANGES: If you/your kids love sugary cereal, consider mixing it with a healthier similar cereal and over time reducing it until you are only left with the healthier choice. Or buy a few new, more healthy cereals for people to choose from, so atleast people feel there is some choice. Topping cereal with fruit provides greater nutrition and a little natural sweetness.