Healthy Foods for Breakfast
Check this out: in recent Consumer Reports news, we find out that some cereals have more sugar than a glazed Dunkin donut. The worst offenders are the sticky sweet cereals like Golden Crisp and Honey Smacks, and I tend to think that my beloved Cocoa Pebbles really aren’t that great either. I’ve mentioned time and again to stay away from food in boxes, especially sugary breakfast cereal.
So what are we to do? You know your kids are going to want something sweet and tasty for breakfast, and in all likelihood you probably don’t want to eat eggs, egg whites, or eggbeaters every day either. Here are some tips to make breakfast both tasty and healthy. I’m happy that I can promote another of my favorite cereals, Frosted Mini-Wheats… good stuff!
10 Healthy Food Breakfast Tips for You and Your Kids
- Always choose protein.
More than one study through the ages has proven to us that eating breakfast each and every day improves brain function, and increases weight loss and/or decreases weight gain. Protein is a major factor in that equation. You can double your protein intake by adding peanut butter and by choosing whole grain breads. Your kid might not be into it, but you can also add a scoop of Optimum Nutrition protein powder to your glass of milk.
Highest Protein (cereal only, no milk):
- Go Lean Crunch wins with 9 grams of protein
- Mini-Wheats comes in second with 6 grams
- Oatmeal does well with 5 grams
Lowest Protein (cereal only, no milk):
- Cheerios and Honey Bunch of Oats score 3 grams
- Frosted Flakes stumbles in with only 1 gram
- Go for fiber.
The Consumer Reports article listed fiber as one of its main deciding factors in ranking the top breakfast cereals. Most kids should aim to eat their age plus 5, grams of fiber each day. That means a 6 year old would need 11 grams a day, while a 10 year old would need about 15 grams. Adults should normally shoot for 25-35 grams a day.
For high fiber kids cereals, choose:
- Cheerios (3g)
- Kix (3g)
- Life (2g)
- Honey Nut Cheerios (2g)
For high fiber cereals that are not exclusively marketed to kids, choose:
- Kashi Go Lean Crunch (9g)
- Grape-Nuts (7g)
- Frosted Mini-Wheats (6g)
- Raisin Bran (5g)
- A spoonful of sugar helps the fiber go down.
That’s not to say that you should be sprinkling extra sugar on your kids cereal. What I am really getting at, is that a slightly sweeter cereal like Frosted Mini-Wheats provides that sugary coating that makes kids happy.
By feeding them the Wheats you are also insuring that they get that big hit of fiber first thing in the morning. The basic message is that you shouldn’t dismiss a cereal just because it has a little sugar, if the nutritional benefits outweigh the negative connotations of sugary goodness.
Highest sugar content:
- Raisin Bran has 19 grams
- Kashi Go Lean Crunch has 13 grams
- Frosted Flakes and Frosted Mini-Wheats contain 12 grams
- Cinnamon Toast Crunch has 10 grams
Lowest sugar content:
- Cheerios has only 1 gram
- Oatmeal also only contains 1 gram
- Wheat Chex has a modest 5 grams
- Keep an eye out for whole grains.
Whole grain cereals often have more fiber than the rest, but they also have additional vitamins and minerals that can’t be found in processed white flour based cereals. The best choice for whole grains, is to pick up some uncooked, unprocessed oatmeal.
Look for Quaker Oats in the cylindrical container, and always choose this kind of oatmeal over the highly processed, sugar-added oatmeal in packets.
If you must add flavor to your oats try drizzling honey, adding fruit, and crumbling a bit of brown sugar over this high fiber meal. Personally, I used to add a scoop of Biotest Grow chocolate protein to my oatmeal.
- Eat leftovers.
That’s right, I went there. Leftovers from dinner are almost always healthier than high sugar pastries and kids cereals. Pizza, pasta, and leftover meat (especially ham) are quite valuable when throwing together a quick breakfast of champions.
- Watch the sodium content.
Consumer reports flagged Froot Loops with 12 grams of sodium and Rice Krispies for having more sodium than is necessary. Rice Krispies are, after all, just puffed rice. They have no fiber, no protein, and they should really have very little sodium.
Since sodium is directly linked to high blood pressure, we should focus on keeping sodium intake low for children. Children in the US have recently experienced a rise in the number of diagnoses of high blood. This is a problem that we should attempt to address. Since most kids cereals have around 300 mg of sodium, we should just remain vigilant.
Highest salt content:
- Cheerios and Cinnamon Toast Crunch have 210 mg. of salt
- Raisin Bran contains a nasty 300 mg. of salt
- Wheat Chex has an abominable 420 mg. of salt per serving
Lowest salt content:
- Meanwhile Frosted Mini-Wheats has only 5 mg. of salt
- Wholesome plain cooked Oatmeal contains no sodium
- Layer cereals.
By putting a layer of sweetened cereal over a foundation of healthy cereal, our kids will get the most bang for their buck (OK, so it’s your buck, but you get the idea). Try putting a serving of your favorite chocolate or fruit flavored kids cereal, over a serving of high fiber shredded wheat.
I actually really enjoy this idea; I’ve been doing it for years, way before I put together this list.
- Avoid sugar substitutes.
The biggest problem with sugar substitutes, aside from their alleged links to cancer in laboratory mice, is that kids will get used the sweet taste, which makes them less likely to choose unsweetened healthy foods in the future. Many kids cereals will claim “25% Less Sugar” or “Sweetened with Splenda”. These cereals should be avoided just as often as their high-sugar counterparts.
Watch out for Splenda, Equal, and Nutrasweet. Also watch out for ingredients such as malitol, sorbitol, or any other -itols.
- Watch, but don’t count calories.
To gain or lose weight, you have to adjust your calories in versus calories out. This is important to adults as we are often striving to do one or the other. For kids, this might not be as important. If your child is gaining fat mass quickly then you will have to consider this, otherwise just try to keep the kid healthy.
Instead of watching total calories, try to focus on limiting calories from fat. Those of us in the know are aware that not all calories are made equal. Eating healthy calories from protein and fibrous carbohydrate sources, will help your child grow up big and strong rather than fat, soft, and diabetic.
Most calories from fat:
- Cinnamon Toast Crunch has 30 calories of fat in each 130-calorie serving
- Go Lean Crunch has 25 calories of fat in a 190-calorie serving
Least calories from fat:
- Frosted Flakes, the lowest of all, has 0 calories from fat
- Mini-Wheats have 10 calories of fat per serving
- Oatmeal is also pretty low in fat.
- Never skip breakfast.
This is the most important rule of all. A healthy bowl of cereal is probably one of the best meals for a kid. Choosing a high fiber cereal with milk, provides an adequate amount of nutrition to start the day. The milk gives you protein, calcium, and vitamin D, while the cereal gives you complex carbohydrates for energy, and fiber.
If you are an avid weight lifter you could probably toss a protein shake or lower calories protein bar into the meal.
The one cereal that I didn’t mention up above is Total. No matter which flavor you choose, you will get 100% of 12 essential vitamins and minerals. Total is always low in fat, contains no cholesterol or saturated fat, is antioxidant-rich, and is made with whole grains.
Similar but far less nutrition choices include Special K and Smart Start.
There are 5 flavors of Total cereal that you can enjoy nowadays:
- Total Whole Grain
- Total Raisin Bran
- Total Cranberry Crunch
- Total Cinnamon Crunch
- Total Honey Clusters
I quite enjoy all the flavors of Total, even the plain whole grain version. Add fruit to make it even tastier and healthier. You can probably even get your kids to indulge in the Honey Cluster version, and possibly even the fruit fortified and cinnamon flavored kinds.
Other healthy breakfast foods:
- Low fat cottage cheese.
- Low fat yogurt, choose Activia for its plentiful supply of active cultures.
- Eggs, egg whites, Eggbeaters
- Fruit, but not necessarily fruit juice.
- A glass of milk.
Paying attention to these tips for both you and your kids, will help help everyone live a healthier lifestyle. Make sure you eat a high protein, high fiber, high nutrition breakfast each and every day.