Posted on April 1, 2019 at 1:52 AM
Mornings can be rushed and chaotic, leaving little to no time to prepare breakfast. A popular breakfast food for kids is cereal because it is one of the easiest to prepare. Many parents think of it as a healthy option, too.
But is your kid’s breakfast cereal as healthy as you think? Let’s deep dive into what your kids’ favorite breakfast cereal is really made of.
Is Cereal With Refined Grains Good For You?
What is cereal made of? In most cases, kids cereal is made with refined grains. Refined grains can be a complicated term, which is why the question of if cereal is good for you when it’s made with refined grains often comes up. Refined grain means that manufacturers strip the grain (wheat, corn, oats, or rice) of most of its nutrients before grinding it into flour to make cereal. Refined grains are usually fortified with synthetic vitamins and minerals, but they are still lacking compared to grains left in their whole form.
To choose a healthy cereal for kids, look for one made with whole grains. Go beyond what the front of the kids cereal box says, as these health claims are often misleading. Instead, just look to see if that the first ingredient on the nutrition label is a whole grain.
The Best Cereal for Kids Should Have Less Sugar
Another ingredient that comprises much of what cereal is made of is sugar Cereal for kids is usually packed with extra sugar to appeal to young taste buds. In fact, one study found that kids’ cereal contains an average of 40% more sugar per serving than cereal marketed towards adults. The same study found that the average serving of kids’ cereal contained just as much sugar as 3 Chips Ahoy! cookies. We don’t know many parents who serve cookies for breakfast, so re-consider serving kids cereal that’s packed with added sugars.
Parents should also consider the way a high-sugar breakfast affects the body. When kids eat a sugary breakfast, it causes sugar and insulin to increase in the bloodstream. These levels plummet soon after, leaving a kid feeling hungry long before lunch time. This may cause a disrupted attention span and behavior issues.
Again, the nutrition label is the best place to check the sugar content on your kids’ favorite cereal. The best cereal for kids won’t list sugar in the first few ingredients. To find options for cereals that are good for you, a good target is 10 grams or less per serving. According to one study, an average serving of cereal contains 19.8 grams! Don’t forget to be mindful of serving sizes, which are often smaller than you’d expect.
Healthy Cereal for Kids Avoids Additives
Cereal for kids is often colorful and bursting with interesting flavors. So, what is cereal made of to produce these wild results? Creating these colors and flavors in kids cereal typically requires a long list of artificial ingredients.
Manufacturers often need additives to hold the refined grains together, and make the cereal shelf-stable. The best cereal for kids will have a short and simple ingredient list.
So, is Cereal Healthy?
Cereal can be good for your little ones, if you know what to look for. Remember not to fall for misleading health claims on the front of the box. Choose kids cereal by reading the nutrition label and looking at what it is made of.
Healthy cereal for kids will have whole grains, low sugar content, and a simple ingredients list. Be aware of the serving size, and consider measuring out your kid’s portion, as recommended servings are usually smaller than we assume.
If your kid still prefers their favorite breakfast cereal, that’s okay! Serve it as a nutritious snack instead, or include it in a healthy breakfast by serving a handful on top of greek yogurt. You could even try pairing it with fresh fruit or a smoothie. These are easy foods to prepare ahead of time and can provide the protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals that kids cereal alone may be lacking.
Healthy Alternatives to Kids Cereal
There are many healthy alternatives to cereal for kids that don’t require extra time in the morning. If you’re not yet sure about the answer to the question, “is cereal good for you?” or if you’re just looking for another option to give your kids in the morning, low-sugar oatmeal or a whole-grain English muffin topped with nut butter and sliced fruit are healthy and practical ideas that your kids will love.
There are also ready-made options available that are both wholesome and delicious. Serve the best breakfast for your kids without the extra work with our Egg-Celent Choice. This healthy alternative to cereal for kids has melty cheese, protein-packed eggs, and shredded hash browns. While not just tasting great, this dish has plenty of protein and fiber to give your kids the best start to a busy day.
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