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The Real Healthy Choice: Cereal

The Real Healthy Choice: Cereal



Why do I have to eat breakfast?
Which cereals are healthiest?
How much fiber do I need?
Is eating cereal like taking a multivitamin?


Why do I have to eat breakfast?
Breakfast just may be the single most important meal of the day. Depriving your body of nutrients by skipping breakfast may lead you to get so hungry that you overeat or binge. That can make you gain weight. And, when you skip breakfast your metabolism will slow down for the rest of the day, leaving you with no energy and little ability to concentrate. Now, that's an eye-opener.

One of the quickest ways to get the vitamins, minerals such as iron and calcium, and fiber you need every day is to eat a bowl of cereal. When you fill a bowl with whole grains, skim or low-fat milk, and fruit such as strawberries, blueberries, or raisins, you're charging your batteries for the day ahead. If you're bored with the same old Os, switch cereals or mix a bunch of different kinds together and you're on your way to a lifelong habit. Your body will thank you. back to top

Which cereals are healthiest?
The funny thing about cereal is that the boxes can be very misleading. Some of the cereals marketed to kids are pretty healthy while some of the cereals labeled "healthy" are loaded with fat and sugar and low in fiber. For example, many brands of granola have tons of added fat and sugar. So, how can you figure out which cereals are the healthiest? Forget the advertising claims. Check the Nutrition Facts label on the side of the box. Get the real scoop! back to top

How much fiber do I need?
When it comes to fiber, a good rule of thumb for teens is to eat your age plus 5. That means, a girl who is 13 needs to eat 18 grams of fiber each day. Eating a variety of grains (including cereals), fruits, and vegetables is the best way to get your fiber. The "All-Bran" cereal in your grocery store has a lot of fiber. But check your local natural food store for the highest fiber cereals. Here are some tips for buying a cereal with plenty of fiber:
  • Don't buy a box of cereal just because it says "high fiber" or "whole grain" on the front. Check the Nutrition Facts label to see how much fiber a cereal really contains.
  • Choose a cereal that contains 5 grams or more per serving.
  • Look for words such as whole wheat, corn, and oats at the beginning of the list of ingredients. If you find the whole grain way down the list, it means that there may not be much of it inside.
  • Add fruit to your cereal to increase the fiber load.
Eating lots of fiber may help protect you from colon cancer when you are an adult. Also, it may reduce your risk for heart disease and diabetes. back to top

Is eating cereal like taking a multivitamin?
Most breakfast cereals are fortified. This means they contain added vitamins and minerals like calcium and iron. You can get at least 25 percent of the daily nutrients that you need in a single serving. Some cereals promise 100 percent of the daily value for many nutrients. While those added vitamins and minerals make cereal an important food, it can't meet all your nutrition needs (but then again, neither can a multivitamin!).

The cereal maker sprays vitamins and minerals onto the cereal before boxing it. Those nutrients may end up floating in the milk, which means it's important to drink the milk at the bottom of your cereal bowl. That milk is also a great source of calcium, which girls really need—especially during puberty.

Eating food that naturally contains vitamins and minerals is more beneficial than just eating fortified foods like cereal. For example, a bowl of cereal may provide a day's worth of vitamin C, but you're much better off getting that C from fruits and vegetables. Natural sources of vitamins and minerals, such as oranges and tomatoes, contain beneficial antioxidants and nutrients that aren't found in cereal (or in multivitamins!). Also, your body has trouble absorbing the minerals that are added to cereal. While the cereal contains iron and zinc, it isn't necessarily passing them on to you. Meat, poultry, and fish are more reliable! back to top

 
 
 
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