When everyone is rushing out the door, cereal is a go-to option for busy families. Most cereals are naturally low in fat, but some cereals are made with hydrogenated oils that sneak in unwanted fat. Choosing cereal that is low in fat and sugar but high in protein and fiber ensures that you're sending your family off on the right nutritional foot.
Most cold cereals have less than 3 g of fat per serving, and cereals with higher fat contents are easy to spot. Chocolate, fruit-flavored and frosted cereals have high sugar and increased fat from hydrogenated oil. Stick with bran, corn or whole-wheat unsweetened cereals to avoid unwanted fat. Unsweetened toasted oats, all-bran cereals and whole-wheat or corn flakes offer high levels of filling fiber without binding oils or added sugars. Cereals enriched with natural seeds and nuts have higher natural fat contents, but the fat isn't trans fat from hydrogenated oil. If you notice a high fat content on your favorite granola cereal, check the ingredients list and trans fat content -- as long as oil isn't a first ingredient and the trans fats are low, you're getting good fats that your body needs.
Hot cereals like oatmeal or farina are naturally low in fat, but instant, flavored varieties have elevated fat contents from added oils. Plain old-fashioned or steel cut oats are high in fiber but average just 2 to 3 g of fat per generous 1/2 cup serving. Farina is even more impressive: instant or slow-cooked varieties offer just 1 g of fat per serving. Both options cook up in under seven minutes and they come with enough vitamins, iron and complex carbohydrates to keep every member of your family satisfied until lunch time.
An Eye on Fat
Sometimes the fattiest element of your breakfast bowl isn't the cereal at all, but rather what you put into it. A cup of whole milk will add 8 g of fat to your cereal, and 5 g of that is saturated. Even 2 percent milk adds 5 g of fat to your cold or warm cereal. Switching to fat-free skim milk or low-fat almond or soy milk will keep the unwanted fat out of your cereal. Skip the cream or butter when you're cooking up warm cereals; a little splash of skim milk will provide the same creaminess without the ample fat.
Sweetening Simple Dishes
If unsweetened cereals are too plain for the taste buds at your table, fat-free or low-fat mix-ins create custom cereals for any family member. Fresh or frozen fruits are healthier options than dried fruit, which are usually loaded with added sugar. If you opt for raisins or cranberries, stick to just a tablespoon or two; you'll add no fat and you'll also skip unnecessary sugar and calories. A sprinkling of brown sugar or a tablespoon of sugar-free jam or preserves sweetens up your warm cereals without excess fat.
- "Women's Health"; Best Cereals for a Healthy Morning; March 2007
- WebMD; Choosing a Healthy Breakfast Cereal; Elaine Magee
- "Fitness" Magazine; The Healthiest Cold Cereals; September 2006
- "Smart Breakfasts"; Jane Kinderlehrer; 1989
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