Tips and techniques

What’s the deal with cereals?

The humble bowl of breakfast cereal has gotten a bit of a bad rap of late but it seems we shouldn't be putting down our spoons just yet.
Pearl barley and cherry breakfast bowl

We long been told that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and, as kids, there was no better way to kick-start the morning than with a big bowl of milky, chocolate-y goodness.

However, as we become more conscious of what is in the foods we’re consuming, cereal is being shown the door. It could be that these sugary starters are to blame.

They’ve led to the perception that all cereals are unhealthy but Nutritional Advisor for Freedom Foods, Dr Joanna McMillan, explains this is not the case.

“Breakfast cereals have changed significantly in recent years and for the better,” Dr McMillan says. “Manufacturers are increasing the use of wholegrains and reducing the levels of added sugar and salt.”

In fact, a bowl-full of these new-and-improved varieties can go a long way in fulfilling many of our dietary needs.

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Need a healthy start to your day? Give our delicious breakfast bowl recipes a try.

Perhaps most importantly is the incredible fibre boost wholegrain cereals can provide. Fibre is essential for maintaining a healthy digestive system, improving heart health and lowering cholesterol levels. As many Australians are not meeting the recommended daily intake of 25 to 30 grams, adding cereal back in to your diet is something to consider.

But, the benefits of a bowl do not stop there. A recent review of over 200 studies found that Aussies who choose to regularly eat breakfast cereals had higher intakes of vitamins A and D, calcium, iron and magnesium.

They were also less likely to be overweight and had a lower risk of type 2 diabetes.

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These wide-ranging benefits are certainly convincing but how do you know which cereals are the healthiest?

Dr McMillan says the first place to start is the front-of-pack Health Star Rating System but to be mindful not to take it as gospel.

“Look beyond this to check for yourself,” she advises. “The ingredients list will tell you how much of the product is truly wholegrain and what else is added.”

Next, scan the nutritional panel. Aim to find a cereal with a minimum of 6 grams of fibre per 100 grams but preferably, this number should be closer to 10 grams per 100.

Also remember that what some cereals lack in chocolate, they often make up in hidden sugars. A healthy cereal will ideally have less than 15 grams of sugar per 100 grams or, if dried fruit is present, less than 20 grams.

Head to the health food aisle for an easy place to start or try our quick toasted muesli recipe or healthy soy porridge for a homemade brekky with all the same nutrients.

By Stephanie Marinkovic

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