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The question

What should I look for in a healthy cereal?

The answer

I have a few criteria for choosing a healthy ready-to-eat breakfast cereal. The most nutritious cereal is one that's low in fat and sugar, high in fibre and made with 100 per cent whole grains such as oats, whole grain whole wheat, whole rye, flaxseed or brown rice.

For starters, read the ingredient list. Look for whole grain to be listed first. This means that the cereal is predominately whole grain. If a whole grain is listed second, you might be getting only a little whole grain. (Ingredients are listed in descending order by weight.) There's one exception here: 100% bran cereals. While bran cereals do not include all parts of the grain kernel, you can consider them whole grain since they're a concentrated source of bran that's missing from refined grains.

Next, read the nutrition label. Choose a cereal that has at least five grams of fibre and no more than eight grams of sugar per serving. Cereals with dried fruit can exceed eight grams of sugar. That's because the sugar numbers on the nutrition label include both added sugars and naturally-occurring sugars in fruit. Cereals with raisins, blueberries, strawberries (not strawberry filling!) and cranberries will have a little more sugar but they'll also have more fibre.

Also consider sodium. Once you start reading labels, you might be surprised to see how much sodium some cereals deliver. For example, some high-fibre breakfast cereals can deliver as much as 20 per cent of your daily requirement in one small serving. Choose a lower sodium cereal with no more than 240 milligrams per serving.

One more tip - keep your serving size in check. By dry weight, an official "food guide" serving of ready-to-eat cereal is 30 grams. In household measures, 30 grams of dry cereal will vary depending on the density, or weight, of the cereal. In general, a serving size of a flake cereal is typically ¾ to 1 cup (175 to 250 ml). The serving size for denser cereals like granola and muesli is 1/3 to ½ cup (75 to 125 ml).

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