Clients are consistently asking me “What should I eat for breakfast?” Regardless of what I tell them or of the fact that they asked me, there is typically a resistance to change what they are already eating. For most of us this is because breakfast needs to be simple, fast, and it needs to satisfy us so we can move on with our day. For these reasons I find that most people, despite saying they get bored with their breakfasts, don’t always change from their regular rotation of 1-3 breakfast options.
Inevitably on people’s short list of breakfast choices is cereal. Cereal can be problematic for many people but that doesn’t mean one needs to avoid it. You know what they say, “knowledge is power”. If you know what the pitfalls of this breakfast grain are then you can find a way to alter your behavior so it becomes a sensible breakfast choice.
CEREAL: PROBLEMS OR TRAITS
Cereal has two characteristics that tend to be challenging for most. The first is that cereal is primarily made up of carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are important but they don’t fill us up long term unless we over eat them or they are used in conjunction of other nutrients to make a MEAL TRIFECTA.
The second trait that is tricky for cereal lovers is that cereal doesn’t come in a “unit”. What do I mean by “unit”? A food unit is a uniform portion or a single entity of that in which that food is typically eaten. An example of a unit of food commonly eaten would be a slice of bread or an apple. Foods that come in “units” are typically easier to manage.
CEREAL: MAKING IT WORK FOR YOU
I hear ya — you love cereal and you want to keep it in your day. That’s fine. Just take control and start measuring it. But if you don’t think you need to measure your cereal I will respect that but then please do what I call “reverse measuring”. Pour the cereal you normally eat into a bowl and then pour it into a measuring cup, that is “reverse measuring”. If it was way more than what is on the nutrition label I suggest that you make a habit out of measuring the cereal you eat until you can reliably eye ball the appropriate portion.
If you find the appropriate amount of cereal doesn’t satisfy you long enough then it may be time to re-evaluate your breakfast. Make sure you are using skim milk with your cereal, your cereal falls into the “cereal criteria” (see below), and maybe try adding fruit to your bowl to add bulk.
TIP: If cereal with milk and fruit isn’t satisfying you for at least 3-4 hours try swaping the skim milk for fat free Greek yogurt. The yogurt has more protein in it than skim milk and may provide all the satisfaction power you need.
There is an enormous array of cereals out there to choose from. Each and every one of them lining the shelves of the supermarket claims to have some sort of super power. The labels are blinding. Forget about these claims, many of them are misleading. And while you are at it, forget about how much protein is added to these cereals.
Cereal is a carbohydrate despite protein claims, if you want more protein in your breakfast look towards another food to provide it. The protein that is added to your cereal may not provide you with the satisfying power that you expect protein would because it isn’t readily absorbed and used by the body therefore it is just a source of added (AKA extra) calories.
There are five things to look at when choosing a cereal, serving size, calories, fat, sugar, and fiber.
- Serving Size: Is it enough to satisfy you?
- Calories: Ideally 120 calories or less. But no more than 150 calories without skim milk per serving.
- Fat: There are more than enough cereals with less than or equal to 2.5 grams of fat per serving. Choose one of those.
- Sugar: Some sugar is fine, too much not so fine. Choose a cereal with less than or equal to 8 grams of sugar per serving.
- Fiber: This is key if you don’t want to overeat the cereal and want to feel satisfied by the cereal long term. Aim for 3 grams or more. There are tons with 5 grams!
CEREAL: MY FAVORITES
To get you on your way to cereal nirvana I have compiled a list of my favorite cereal for you that fit the criteria outlined above. Go ahead, enjoy. Just enjoy mindfully!
|Purely O's (Cascadian Farm)||Whole Grain Cheerios (General Mills)||Sunrise Crunch Vanilla (Nature's Path)||Shredded Wheat (Barbara's)|
|Honey Nut O's (Cascadian Farm)||Multigrain Cheerios (General Mills)||Mesa Sunrise (Nature's Path)||Honest O's (Barbara's)|
|Cinnamon Crunch (Cascadian Farm)||Wheaties (General Mills)||Heritage Flakes (Nature's Path)||Honest O's Multi Grain (Barbara's)|
|Chocolate O's (Cascadian Farm)||Fiber One (General Mills)||Flax Plus Flakes (Nature's Path)||Original Puffins (Barbara's)|
|Graham Crunch (Cascadian Farm)||Total (General Mills)||Smart Bran (Nature's Path)||Honey Rice Puffins (Barbara's)|
|Shredded Wheat and Bran* (Post)||Kix (General Mills)||All Bran Wheat Flakes (Kellogg's)||Multi Grain Puffins (Barbara's)|
|Bran Flakes (Post)||Fiber One Honey Clusters (General Mills)||All Bran Original (Kellogg's)||Peanut Butter and Chocolate Puffins (Barbara's)|
|Shredded Wheat Original Big Biscuit* (Post)||Heart to Heart (Kashi)||Multi Grain Spoonfuls (Barbara's)|
|Shredded Wheat Original Spoon Size* (Post)||Heart to Heart Warm Cinnamon (Kashi)|
|Honey Sunshine (Kashi)|
* These cereals are denser cereals so they have more calories per serving but are very filling