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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

10 Best Breakfast Cereals

10 Best Breakfast Cereals
By Susan Burke March MS, RD, LD/N, CDE
eDiets Contributor

I always say I'm the breakfast cereal queen! I cannot live without my cereal in the morning.

Like some who crave their chocolate, I wake up dreaming about my mix of cereals with fresh fruit and juicy raisins (I never buy cereal with "added fruit" -- I add my own). I eat cereal every day of my life.

It may sound boring, but it's the habit I developed when I was 26 years old, the year I decided to get healthy: I dropped my daily gargantuan muffin with about 800 calories (I found out later -- I was suspicious but in denial) and ultimately achieved permanent weight loss.

Researchers show that people who eat a low-sugar, low-fat cereal for breakfast are more successful at maintaining their weight loss. I can attest to that!

The following are my favorite cereals. I thought about boycotting the companies that make those "children's cereals." You know, the ones that show pictures of chocolate and candy on the front of the package along with bold labels that say "contains 11 essential nutrients," even though it's really candy masquerading as cereal. But since most of these companies also make some pretty healthy cereals, I decided to give them a break. It is, after all, up to us to choose right.

One caveat: If you're on a low-sodium diet, the nutrition facts panels on breakfast cereals are important reading. Most commercial cereals are fairly high in sodium. Exceptions are puffed cereals, hot oatmeal and whole grains -- and there are some without any added sodium. But sodium is generally used ubiquitously, as flavoring and as preservative.

1. Kashi GoLean: Kellogg's now owns Kashi, and it worries me that they're now offering "crunchy" versions of my favorite cereal. "Crunchy" is code for "added sugar and fat," but the original version of GoLean has only five grams of sugar per serving and is a mix of "crunchy fiber twigs, crispy soy protein grahams and honey-toasted Seven Whole Grains & Sesame puffs." Love those twigs and sticks!

2. All-Bran Bran Buds: Another Kellogg's original, Bran Buds contain psyllium, a natural fiber, and are low in sugar, fat and calories. It is the only "bran" cereal besides Fiber One that really stands up in milk. I like these little nuggets, and I mix them with a flaky cereal like Product 19 or Total for added crunch.

3. Product 19: This is Kellogg's flaky fat-free corn cereal, which is low in sugar (four grams) and provides 100 percent of the Daily Value (for a 2000 calorie diet) for all B vitamins, vitamins E and C, as well as 15 percent of vitamin A and 10 percent of vitamin D. It even has four grams of fiber per serving and only 100 calories. I hate that the Nutrition Facts panel shows a cup of cereal with only a one-half cup fat-free milk: add a whole cup on your way to three servings of nonfat dairy daily.

4. Barbara's Shredded Spoonfuls: I like Barbara's Cereals: not only are they very tasty, but they also contain NO artificial colors, flavors, preservatives, refined white sugar or hydrogenated oils. I especially like the texture and shape of the Shredded Spoonfuls. Eat them with some fresh strawberries and fat-free milk. They contain only 120 calories per cup, are lower in sodium than most cereals (200 milligrams per cup) and provide four grams of fiber with only five grams of sugar.

5. Cheerios: Stick with the original General Mills' "O's" cereal because the new versions are candied up with sugar and calories. They hold only 110 calories per cup (without milk), no saturated fat and three grams of fiber with only one gram of sugar -- and the sodium is a reasonable 210 milligrams.

6. Kellogg's Complete Oat Bran Flakes: I like this flaky cereal because it's low in fat and calories and has a lot of "oaty" flavor. It's low in sodium (120 milligrams), fairly low in sugar (six grams) and has four grams of fiber. This or the wheat bran flakes varieties are usually available when I go to business breakfasts.

7. Post's Grape Nuts: Although Grape Nuts are high in sodium (360 milligrams), a little of this low-fat and low-sugar cereal goes a long way and are delightfully crunchy and nutty. Since this cereal is dense in calories (and weighs more per cup than flaked cereal), the serving size is about a one-third cup instead of one cup. I add them to a flaked cereal -- just a couple of tablespoons -- for the crunch.

8. Health Valley Organic Oat Bran Flakes: Health Valley Cereals, like Barbara's Cereals, are made from organically grown grains and contain no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives. They are delicious too. You can find Health Valley at many major grocery chains, as well as all natural foods stores. The oat bran flakes have a particularly nice nutty flavor, zero grams of fat, and only 15 milligrams of sodium. Add four grams of fiber and only four of sugar, and these organic flakes are a winner.

9. When is cereal a great snack? When you try Nabisco's Shredded Wheat 'n Bran 100% Natural Whole Wheat MiniWheats. I love to eat these as a snack: they're portable, crunchy and really satisfying. Fiber-rich (eight grams per serving), Shredded Wheat has been around for a while -- a long while -- so ignore all the sugary and fatty versions and reach for the unadulterated bite-sized varieties, which have no added sugar or sodium. They're the best.

10. General Mills' Total Whole Grain: Forget the sugar-coated version; original Total, like Product 19, is a good breakfast cereal for people who want to make sure they get 100 percent of their B vitamins and other important vitamins each day -- along with some fiber and minerals. Although the sweetened versions appear to be taking over the aisle, be smart and stay with the tried-and-true nutrition.

Susan L. Burke is a registered and licensed dietitian and a certified diabetes educator who specializes in both general and diabetes-related weight management.

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