I don’t buy Cheerios. I know this seems crazy as every household with a toddler has Cheerios, right? They are an American staple kid food right up there with Goldfish and fruit snacks. I actually don’t buy these items either. I don’t buy them because we simply don’t need them. They don’t provide anything for us. I know general society says “they are gluten free” and a “healthy whole grain” but remember these are unregulated marketing terms, they mean very little when talking about the health benefits of a food. Just because the product says it is gluten free, natural, whole grain or organic does not mean it is good for you.
Maybe I should back up a moment and say for starters I am not one who follows diets or food fads. I believe in eating healthy nutritionally dense foods that taste good. What I consider a healthy food is one that is unprocessed or minimally processed (whole milk after all is still a processed food). Foods I consider healthy have high nutritional density providing high quality fat, protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals. Now not to say that cereals are “bad” for you I just like to bring awareness to other alternatives that may be a better option for you. Most breakfast cereals provide very little nutritional value.
You see my husband for one will sit down to a large bowl of cereal every morning and did so for years. Going through a box of $4.00 cereal every single week. Now $4 for 5 simple breakfasts is not too expensive. However, what are you are actually getting in the bowl? Most breakfast cereals are made of ultra processed simple grains and a variety of sugars and flavors. I would rather pay $4 for eggs than $4 for glorified sugar.
The main ingredients in Cheerios for example are oats, cornstarch and sugar. Oats in moderation are ok, they are mostly carbohydrate, with small amounts of protein, fiber and fat. But if I want to eat oats I will eat unprocessed oats, cooked oatmeal or use it as flour for some gluten free baking. Cornstarch is essentially a highly processed carbohydrate. It packs about 30 calories or 7 grams of carbohydrate per tablespoon. Also note that 4 grams of carbohydrates equals 1 teaspoon of sugar. There’s no protein, fat, vitamins, minerals or fiber and sugar gives us a quick burst of easy calories but also provides no nutritional value. When you break it down Cheerios and most breakfast cereals are just fancy ways to introduce more refined sugars. Yes, Cheerios and many other cereals do fortify the food so it has some redeeming qualities of vitamins and minerals such as vitamin A,C,D, B, Iron Calcium and zinc for example but the truth of the matter is if you eat whole foods that naturally contain these vitamins and minerals your body can better digest and absorb them while getting the quality nutrition you really need.
For example take the simple walnut; they are a high quality fat and protein. Remember your brain needs fat to grow and function a breakfast that starts with carbohydrates and sugar is leaving your brain starving.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Nutrient Database, approximately 1 ounce of raw walnuts about ¼ cup contains
185 calories, 3.89 grams of carbohydrate , 0.74 grams of sugar, 1.9 grams of fiber, 4.32 grams of protein
One ounce of walnuts also provides the following percentages of recommended daily nutrient intake:
- 48 percent of manganese
- 22 percent of copper
- 11 percent of magnesium
- 10 percent of phosphorus
- 8 percent of vitamin B6
- 5 percent of iron
- Raisins are a good source of carbohydrate but also B Vitamins Iron, Potassium and magnesium. Dried cherries have vitamin a, calcium, and iron.
You don’t need to fortify your foods if you eat a healthy balance of whole foods to begin with. Real foods contain real nutrients.
So what do we eat for quick on the go breakfasts? My husband still loves his bowl of cereal in the morning but I refused to continue buying cereal at $4 a box that provides very little value to our daily health. I stated mixing together our own. Each batch is always a little different depending on what I have on hard but it is always some combination of nuts, seeds, oats, and dried fruits. Once every 3-4 weeks I mix up a big batch made with real whole foods and we are set with high quality fuel for the day. Note that some dried fruits are artificially sweetened and flavored look for ones that are in their natural state. The package should just say, raisins or blueberries on it, for cranberries, which are naturally tart, look for apple juice sweetened ones rather than sugar sweetened. Try to choose foods that as close to the natural form as possible for best nutritional value and easy digestion.
Here are some items I include in our daily breakfast cereal.
I mix chopped walnut, almonds, cashews, pecans, chia seeds, hemp seeds, flax seed, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, oats, unsweetened coconut, raisins, blueberries, cherries, apricots, mango, mulberries, goji berries. You can mix any variety of dried items together for unique combinations. By creating your own mix with real foods you have more vitamins and minerals than the average processed and artificially fortified versions and you are consuming better quality nutrient dense food with high quality fats and protein to get your day started. You can eat this with milk like muesli or top yogurt with it.
There is one Box I buy:
Ok just like many mothers I need a simple on the go, shelf stable, dry snack for my son to much on at times. The one box of cereal I do buy is from Love Grown. This is a gluten free cereal that is made from a bean blend so it has higher protein and fiber content then most cereals and does not contain any additional junk. They make a few varieties and flavors like strawberry and chocolate but these do contain a little added sugar. I prefer the original with no added sugar and if you want it a little sweeter you can add natural sugars like honey or real maple syrup. This way you can also control the level of sweetness. This is a great alternative to Honey Nut cheerios if you want to try and make a switch. My son prefers these mixed in with the homemade cereal and I will often pack these in a diaper bag for a quick on the go dry snack if we need something while we are out.
Eating well like so many other things in life is a process, if you try to tackle it all at once or make huge drastic changes it is often hard to sustain. Start small, take one step at a time and be patient with yourself and your family. Know that each minor shift is for the better and don’t beat yourself up when you splurge of the giant cinnamon roll or cheese curds just enjoy, as that is what life is meant for.
What foods do you substitute for healthier versions? Have questions or want other suggestions for what to do with your current favorite food? Share your thoughts below, I am happy to help.