My friend was concerned that her kids only like chocolate cereals and won’t eat regular corn flakes. She asks, “are chocolate cereals healthy?”
To answer her question, I compared two common cereals: General Mills Cocoa Puffs and Kellogg’s Corn Flakes.
|Kellogg’s Corn Flakes||General Mills Cocoa Puffs|
|Serving size||1 cup/ 28 g||¾ cup/ 27 g|
|Total Fat grams
|Ingredient list||Milled corn, sugar, malt flavoring, high fructose corn syrup, salt, (vitamins and iron)||Whole grain corn, sugar, corn syrup, corn meal, canola and/or rice bran oil, cocoa…, (vitamins and minerals)|
As you can see, they are comparable.
- Same calories
- Thumbs up for Corn Flakes for the zero fat, higher in protein (although not that high), and the first 3 ingredients include only one type of sugar
- Thumbs up for Cocoa Puffs for more fiber (although not that high), the first ingredient is a whole grain, and the fat comes from vegetable oil
To answer her question, I would say that Cocoa Puffs is as good, or bad, as regular Corn Flakes. Actually, I would not consider any of them healthy.
Then, what cereal should you eat?
The best strategy is to look at the ingredients list in the bottom of the nutrition label. The list is sorted from the highest in weight to the lowest. To simplify my life—and now yours, I go by two rules:
One: The first ingredient is a whole grain. Look for whole wheat, whole corn, wheat bran, corn bran, oat bran, or oats.
Two: Sugar is not one of the first three ingredients. Other names for sugar are high fructose corn syrup, evaporated cane juice, granulated sugar, invert sugar, confectioner’s sugar, brown sugar, honey, maple syrup, molasses, sucrose, fructose, or glucose. This is a tough rule since most cereals are sweetened. If you can’t find a cereal that follows this rule, then at least the first two ingredients should not be sugar.
Three: Aim for 5 grams of fiber and 5 grams of protein per serving–or as close as you can get. They will keep you full for longer.
No time to read labels? Start with these:
Kellogg’s Raisin Bran
Post Grape Nuts, Shredded Wheat, or Trail Mix Crunch Cereals
General Mills Fiber One
Quaker Oat Bran, Oatmeal Squares, Natural Granola Low Fat
Quaker Quick Oats
(List not exclusive. I do not endorse any products)
- The less ingredients, the better
- To control the sweetness and increase variety, buy a cereal without added sugar, like plain oats or bran flakes, and add your own fruits and flavors at home
- “Sugar” on the label doesn’t differentiate if the source is fruits (natural) or other sweeteners. Don’t bother
- Make granola at home
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day and a great opportunity for your kids—and YOU—to get a serving of whole grains. Add a cup of milk and some fruits, and you’ll have a complete meal. How much better can it get?