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Children and adults alike enjoy the hassle-free world of breakfast cereal. It’s fast and filling, so it’s a perfect way to start the day, right? Unfortunately, many members of the cereal family are highly processed and lacking in nutritional value. Even the supposedly ‘healthy’ cereals can be sugar bombs in disguise. 

But cereal lovers, don’t despair, because it’s not all bad news. Most varieties do deliver on their promise, providing a rich source of fibre and wholegrains. 

A recent analysis of Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data from the Australian Health Survey (AHS) found Australian adults who started their day with breakfast cereal were more likely to meet recommendations from the five food groups (core foods) and recommended nutrient intakes, compared to breakfast skippers or adults who ate other breakfasts.

The data also revealed cereal eaters had the lowest intakes of refined ‘added’ grains and were also most likely to be within a healthy weight range. 

The secret to getting it right? Leave no box unturned when comparing labels.

Speak to your Fernwood Food Coach about creating a tailored meal plan.

Not so sweet

Quitting sugar may seem trendy, but many are confused which sugars are more harmful than others. Based on the latest AHS data, breakfast cereal eaters had lower ‘added’ sugar intakes than people who skipped breakfast or chose other breakfast foods. Pay attention to added sugars, which we should only be consuming in moderation (no more than 10% of total kilojoules for an average Australian adult) each day.

Tip: Choose cereals with less than 15g per 100g or less than 25g per 100g of total sugar if the cereal contains dried fruit.

Fibre first

Grains (commonly referred to as “cereal grains”) are one of the easiest ways to boost your daily fibre intake. Other than digestive benefits, the data shows that regular consumption of high-fibre cereal grains is associated with the reduced risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and slimmer waistlines than those who eat other breakfast choices.

Tip: To help reach the recommended 30g of fibre each day (slightly less for children), choose a cereal that provides at least 10g per 100g.

Find out how to make fats carbs and protein work for you here.

Go the whole way

Most people eat too many refined grains. Extensive processing strips the nutritional value, including naturally occurring fibre, protein, and many bioactive phytochemicals that work together in the body to promote health and wellbeing.

Tip: Look for ‘whole’ or ‘wholegrain’ in the first few ingredients. These also include whole wheat, brown rice, barley, rolled oats and triticale.

Fats and energy

Generally, breakfast cereals are fairly low in fat and energy (kilojoules) unless they have nuts (like muesli), baked clusters or added sugar. Check the ingredients to see if the fat comes mainly from nuts, seeds, or processed fat such as vegetables, coconut, or palm oil, which can increase saturated (unhealthy) fat levels.

Tip: Look for a low ratio of saturated fat compared to unsaturated (healthy) fat.

Slash the salt

Sodium is linked to high blood pressure and an increased risk of heart disease. However, most of our salt intake comes from processed and fast food, not the salt you add to meals. It’s still something to consider when reading the labels, though.

Tip: Any cereal that has less than 400mg per 100g is good. 

More healthy and helpful nutrition content is right here.