- Sue the Queen
Breakfast cereals (cereals or cornflakes) have become a favorite dish for many people all over the world, especially for those who take good care of their health. But do we pay enough attention to its ingredients?
Here’s how to make sure you buy the right product and how to prepare that meal that will give your mind and body the best start to the day.
Breakfast cereals are easy to prepare and, according to the British company “Euromonitor”, the British spend more on this product than in most other countries.
However, despite its popularity, this cereal has come under heavy criticism in recent years due to the high sugar content of some of its varieties and the way it is marketed. A recent report from the Food and Drug Administration found that 93% of children’s breakfast cereals contain high or moderate levels of sugar.
According to the report, Kellogg’s Fruit Loops marshmallows have the most added sugar (17g per 39g serving, which equals 4 teaspoons).
This is 89% of the maximum recommended daily amount of added “sugar”, all added sugars in any form, for a child aged four to six.
Overall, the report found no significant improvement in the sugar content of breakfast cereals marketed to children over the past year, although there has been progress in reducing the salt and increased fiber content.
“Parents often offer cereal and yogurt to their children because they think it’s a relatively healthy option,” the report said. “Many of these products are marketed directly to children, but not all of them have the appropriate nutritional value.”
As part of its policy to tackle the obesity crisis, the UK government will introduce new rules from October that will ban cereals and other products high in fat, salt or sugar from being highlighted in stores. (The ban on promotions such as “buy one, get one free” offers has been delayed for 12 months due to the cost of living crisis.)
But above all, how to choose healthy cereals?
Experts say grains can be part of a healthy, balanced diet because many are a good source of whole grains (which help prevent disease), fiber (essential for a healthy digestive system), vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. But what’s written on cereal packages can make it hard to tell which ones are healthier than others.
There is no legal definition of breakfast cereals, says Rana Conway, dietitian and member of the Obesity Policy Research Unit at University College London. However, manufacturers use the term “pills” on packaging to trick us into believing a product is healthy, which is not necessarily the case.
“You can market anything like a cereal,” Conway says. “In fact, there are cereals that have a lot of sugar.”
Cereal packages often list things incorrectly, such as the presence of calcium and added nutrients such as iron, vitamin D, and folic acid. The grain loses some of these nutrients during milling, cooking and processing and these are added back using a method known as fortification.
Other terms such as “additional features” and illustrations of grain or packages of wheat non-specifically imply that the grain inside the package is good for us.
“Manufacturers do this to create a healthy aura around their products, so we think it’s healthy,” Conway says. “A lot of iron, vitamin D, folic acid, etc. are added to breakfast cereals. But this does not compensate for the very high sugar content of some of them.”
The term “whole grain” can also be misleading.
For a product to be labeled as made from a whole grain, it must contain all of the edible parts of the grain: the germ, endosperm and bran.
In the UK, there is no minimum legal requirement for the necessary amount of grain a product must contain to be marketed as ‘whole grain’.
The thing to watch out for is seeing whole grains on the front of the package and thinking that means they’re healthy because they “can still be high in sugar,” says Conway.
The only way to know what your breakfast cereal contains and how much healthy vs. unhealthy ingredients is to carefully review the ingredient list and nutrition label. It’s also important to remember that this won’t include the milk you add to your cereal.
The nutrition label on cereal packages often lists the percentage of sugar, fat, fibre, salt and other nutrients per 100g serving.
But, says Bahi van Deboer, dietitian and spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association (BDA), the most important information is in the “per 100g” column.
The suggested amount per serving is stated on the packaging by the manufacturers and is based on average consumption in nine European countries, including the UK. The suggested portion varies from 30 to 45 grams, depending on the density of the grain (roasted rice is less dense than muesli, for example).
The exact serving size accurately reflects what each person is eating, Van Debur says, and if you eat more than the suggested amount, your sugar intake will be much higher than the package suggests. Checking sugar, fat, salt and fiber per 100g column is much more informative.
A Kellogg’s spokeswoman tells us that the portion size is not intended to mislead consumers about sugar content. “While we can provide information on recommended amounts, we cannot control consumer behavior,” she says.
Although voluntary, green, red and yellow stickers now appear on most cereal packages to let consumers know if a product contains high, medium or low amounts of fat, saturated fat, sugars and salt.
(Red means high, yellow means medium and green means low).
Again, check that it shows the amount of salt, fat, sugar and fiber per 100g for each serving and that the ingredient list is in order of weight.
“If the first ingredients are sugar, honey, or syrups, that’s a sign that the cereal is likely to be high in sugar,” says Van Debur. Checking the column every 100 grams will confirm this.
Also look for whole grains in the ingredient list (best to see whole grains at the top of the list).
“Nuts and seeds are also great because most of us don’t get enough of them in our diets,” says Conway.
When buying children’s cereal, be sure to read the consumption rate, which is often written as a percentage in the column for a single serving. RAS are the amounts of specific nutrients and energy needed by healthy adults, not children.
“In fact, the energy and nutrient needs of children and the peak glucose levels for children vary with their age and are lower than those of adults,” says Conway.
“If you look at the RI list on a box of these cereals, you’ll see that they underestimate the number of calories and the amount of sugar a child is getting in a serving. I think it’s fair to say that it’s misleading.”
What is the healthiest cereal option? breakfast?
Oatmeal porridge prepared with the addition of water or milk is the best option, according to the non-profit British Heart Foundation. Alternatively, you can make oatmeal ahead in the evening for the next morning.
Conway says all types of whole grain oats are healthier and better than ground or prepared rolled oats.
“If over-crushed or over-processed, nutrients can quickly turn to sugar and go straight to blood sugar. Instant types often contain syrup or other sweeteners as well.”
Cereals that are low in sugar (less than 5g per 100g) such as those made with sliced wheat or flakes are good choices.
Conway says bran flakes are also healthy, especially if they contain dried fruit, as they can count towards your daily five-nutrient needs.
“I would insist on avoiding anything with the word ‘honey’ in the name or anything frozen, which means it has a high sugar content,” she adds.
But before you buy, check the nutritional value information and the ingredient list for sugar. You’ll find different types of cereal, like bran flakes, that contain different amounts of added sugar (they may contain more sugar than you think).
Many people think muesli and granola are healthy because they contain whole grains, dried fruits, nuts and seeds. But choose packages that do not contain added sugar or salt.
And remember, added sugar can be in the form of honey, syrup, nectar, and anything that ends in “dare,” like fructose, glucose, and dextrose.
Create your own dish
Nutritionist Katherine Kelly says there are simple ways to make any grain healthier.
She suggests, “Breakfast should be high in fiber, nutrients and antioxidants, so if grains are lacking, add a tablespoon of mixed seeds. “These seeds can be ground like flax seeds or whole like pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, or chia seeds.”
And for sweetness, add fresh fruit instead of sugar, as well as frozen or liquid berries, a delicious and economical option, and dried fruit also works well. A dollop of plain or coconut yogurt also makes a nutritious topping.
“You’ll get live bacteria that’s good for your gut microbiome,” Kelly says.
Less healthy breakfast cereals can also be mixed with oatmeal or another sugar-free cereal.
You can also make your own mixture by mixing oats with your favorite nuts, seeds and dried fruits, or mix the same mixture with coconut oil, spread it on a tray and lightly toast it in the oven. oven to make granola.
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