When I was younger, cereal was the go-to breakfast choice between my brother and I. I wish I could say we chose the healthier cereals but no, it was usually Captain Crunch or Reese Puffs. After finding the largest, clean bowl from the cabinet, I filled that bad boy up to the top and I was ready to seize the day.
I am proud to admit that I am long past those days of filling up on sugar for breakfast but since then I had this perception to avoid the cereal isle at the grocery store. My dad calls me the “cereal killer” because I roll my eyes every time he grabs a few boxes for his breakfast that week.
However, after attending my first Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo (FNCE) in Nashville this past year, I have a new view on cereal. It was day two of FNCE and after the four hour drive to Nashville, exploring the city the night before, and attending two sessions in the morning with two more to go, the fatigue and “hangry” feeling was setting in. I came across this large display of cereal but it wasn’t just a cereal booth. There were several food combinations to add to your cereal, combinations I never imagined. Brilliant! I thought to myself. I chose a honey oat cereal (½ cup), with a ¼ avocado, 0% Greek yogurt, pistachios, and a dash of paprika and honey. Not only way it delicious but a great source of protein (Greek yogurt), monounsaturated fat (avocado) and carbohydrates (cereal). It was just what I needed to make it through the day.
Here are some tips to keep in mind when choosing cereal and ideas to upgrade your breakfast:
1. Fiber: Fiber is a key player when it comes to digestive health. Not only does fiber help prevent a spike in blood sugars so you don’t experience that crash feeling during the midday, it also promotes satiety. Look for cereals with 7-8 grams of fiber per serving.
2. Upgrade: Most cereals are lower in protein. Add 0% or 2% plain yogurt for some added protein to help you tackle your day!
3. Added Sugar: I try not to think about the amount of sugar I consumed back in the day when I would eat about 4-5 servings of Reese Puffs for breakfast. Try to avoid cereals with loads of added sugar. I recommend keeping added sugars under 15 grams per serving but tailor it to your nutrition goals.
4. Upgrade: To add some sweetness to your cereal, try 1 teaspoon of honey or your favorite fresh fruit.
5. Upgrade: Don’t forget to add some the good fat too! My choice is always an avocado but nuts and seeds are a great option too!
Hopefully this gives you a different view on cereal or at least some different ingredients to add to your cereal! Also, don’t forget about serving size, most cereals have a serving size of ½ cup. Adding different ingredients with protein and fat will help fight off those hungry cravings till lunch!
Alli Bokenkotter, BS, is a recent graduate of the University of Cincinnati Dietetic Internship. She was also the diversity and National Nutrition Month Chair for the Greater Cincinnati Dietetic Association.