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Why not cereal for dinner?

Cereal really is the perfect meal. Not only is it quick and easy to prepare, but it’s nutritious and low in calories. It can provide at least 25 per cent of everything a multivitamin can, which is especially important for anyone who’s trying to lose weight and might be missing out on important vitamins and minerals due to their restricted diet.

Many cereals are fortified, meaning that they have vitamins and minerals added, or enriched, which means that the vitamins lost in the manufacturing process are replaced. Add to that milk—which provides calcium and protein—and you’ve got a meal to be reckoned with!

However, not all cereals are created equal, so when buying cereal look for a cereal that contains at least 3 grams of fiber per serving. Fiber lowers cholesterol and helps keep blood sugar levels stable, which is important as lows and highs in blood sugar can mean the body becomes resistant to insulin, a hormone that helps it to process blood sugar.

Over time, this condition can lead to diabetes. Fiber also takes time to be digested so you stay fuller for longer, so if you eat cereal for breakfast you’ll be better able to resist that well-known ritual of the mid-morning snack.

Also check for the word “whole” in the list of ingredients. This means that the grains haven’t been stripped of the kernels’ beneficial bran and germ layers, a process that also removes more than half of the nutrients including fiber: the least amount of processing, the better the cereal. The more closely cereal resembles grain—think whole oats—the better it is for you.

Cereals with no more than 10 grams of sugar per serving should be avoided as any more than this then the sugar will have been added and as such will just be unwanted extra calories.

Sugar can also raise blood sugar too fast resulting in the body crashing and you feeling hungry as soon as an hour after eating. If your favorite cereal is high in sugar, don’t immediately discard it though, especially if it’s also high in fiber, just choose the low-sugar version, if available.

While checking the calorie content is a good idea, don’t worry too much about fat. Most fat in cereal is the healthy monounsaturated kind found in nuts. However, trans fats should be checked. And even if not present, check for partially hydrogenated oil as this contains trans fat.

Under FDA guidelines, if a product has less than half a gram of trans fat per serving, manufacturers can state the product contains 0 grams. And while less than half a gram of trans fat doesn’t sound much, research shows that even a few grams a day can be harmful to the heart.

Checking the calorie content in respect of portion size is also a good idea as most of us pour twice the amount of the “average serving” listed on the box! Use a measuring cup to see how much you’re having. Your total calories (including milk) from your cereal should be no more than around 400.

And if you need something to satisfy your sweet tooth, instead of sugar, opt for nutrient-rich substitutes such as fresh and dried fruit (e.g. blueberries and raisins), or low-fat yogurt.

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