Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Are you picking the right 'cereal'?

For sometime now, doctors have debated on the permissible level of sugar in breakfast cereals, especially of the coloured and sugar-frosted varieties. Despite it all, the ' health conscious' lot continue to have cereals for breakfast, and with relish. And why not, they are easy to fix, digest easily, and supposedly low on calories. But this time make sure you check the nutrition value of the breakfast cereal before you buy it. Our quick checklist should help you make the right choice.

- Check sugar content: Most cereals have sugar content as high as 25 per cent, making it an unhealthy breakfast idea. Go for the ones low on sugar.

- For muesli type cereals: Muesli no longer is as healthy as some years back, for most brands doing them add very high levels of sugar. But if you are an addict by now, go for the unsweetened varieties; there are plenty on the market. By adding fresh fruits to a bowl of muesli you can restore its sweet flavour, not to mention, make it healthier.

- Artificial colouring and salt content - While picking the right breakfast cereal, do not just settle for 'whole grains'. Do take a glance at the quantity of other ingredients such as refined grains, salt, fibre and colouring.

- More than one ingredient - Always go for the ones with multiple grains such as oats, wheat. Why not try making your own muesli at home by shopping for some oats and grains from a health food shop.

- High fibre content - Doubly ensure your breakfast cereal is rich in fibres, and has very little artificial sweetener.

- Low fat content - If the packaging is attractive then who cares how loaded with fat it is! Precisely why, it is imperative to note the fat content before buying.

It is best to serve all cereals with skimmed or semi-skimmed milk. But never with sugar!

Once you know what to look for in breakfast cereals, it is a case of which one to go for. Nutritionist Dr Shikha Sharma makes it easy by sharing with us the health benefits of popular breakfast cereals:
- Porridge: Porridge is the most healthy breakfast idea. It is rich in minerals and has high fibre content that keeps blood sugar under control. Use a little jaggery if you wish to sweeten it, otherwise you can top it with fresh fruits or sprinkle some raisins and almonds.
- Cornflakes: Abundant in carbohydrates, iron and Vitamin B complex, cornflakes work very well for school kids and elders too. It is a particularly good breakfast in the rainy months because the body starts holding water owing to high moisture in the air.
- Wheat flakes: It is a modification of wheat porridge and is a nice change from run-of-the-mill breakfast cereals. But unless fortified with extra calcium, it is not much use having just wheat flakes for breakfast.
- Oats: A bowl of oats in the morning is great for those suffering high cholesterol and diabetes, provided you don't add extra sugar to it. The high fibre content in oats balances the blood sugar, and relieves people prone to depression.
- Muesli: Muesli is a great breakfast choice as it has raisins, almonds and four different grains. The comparatively high sugar content in muesli keeps growing children and those into sports, energetic. It can be served with both milk and curd. You can so much as substitute muesli with evening snacks for kids.
- Poha/rice crispies: The poha version of rice crispies is popular in Indian households, and makes for a light and healthy breakfast. But make sure your poha is only lightly sautéed.

Aside from the usual cornflakes and oats, there is a whole assortment of chocolate, honey and fruit-flavoured breakfast cereals that find takers among young kids. Just how good or bad an idea is it? Says Dr Shikha, "Although it is best to go for natural cereals, it is alright to break free from the mundane breakfast chart once in a while. The purpose is to serve up a good mix that is both appealing to the taste buds and has nutritional value."


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