STLMoms Nutrition Connection: The Dreaded Cereal Aisle

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By Jennifer McDaniel, MS, RD, CSSD, LD

The cereal aisle can be a very intimidating grocery aisle. With so many cereals to choose from and numerous varieties of the same brand, how can you find the right cereal without spending hours scouring over the Nutrition Facts Panel? Hopefully this Nutrition Connection newsletter can provide you with some quick pointers to pick out the perfect cereal nugget.

Serving Size:

When evaluating cereal serving sizes, one can’t assume that all serving sizes are equal to 1 cup. The serving size for Grape Nuts is ½ a cup whereas the serving size for most cereals is ¾ – 1 cup. Awareness of the serving size is important when evaluating the rest of the nutrients discussed below as well as knowing how much you pour into your bowl!

Calorie Goal:

Cereal calories can add up quickly if you have a calorie dense cereal combined with a heavy cereal pour. Take for example Grape Nuts: 1 cup of Grape Nuts will provide you with 400 calories whereas one cup of Bran Flakes contains only 90 calories. For those watching their waistline, I usually recommend a cereal which contain 120 calories or less per ¾ cup serving, therefore if you pour two servings you are still under 300 calories without the milk and added fruit.

Carbohydrates: Sugar: So how much added sugar is an acceptable amount? Don’t count on the front of the cereal box to tell you. As an example, Smart Start cereal claims that it is “lightly sweetened” however it contains more added sugars than Fruit Loops! My rule of thumb is to find a cereal that has 7 grams or less of added sugars.


Breakfast is an excellent way to take a big bite out of your overall fiber needs for the day. Cereals can run from 0 grams of fiber to 12 grams of fiber per serving! Shoot for a cereal that contains at least 5 grams of fiber or more. Cereals such as bran flaks are going to contain mostly insoluble fiber which helps keep those digestive track pipes flowing. Cereals made with grains such as oats and barley contain more soluble fibers which have been shown to help lower cholesterol.

Healthy Additions?

So what about the freeze dried fruit added to cereal or novelty ingredients like flax or soy? In terms of freeze dried fruit, the fruit might add color, but adds little nutritional value to the cereal. Your best bet is to add you own fresh or frozen fruit to your cereal for fruitful benefits.

There is no debate that soy and flax can be healthy additions, but just because the cereal contains these functional ingredients does not mean the cereal is an overall best bet. Many of these cereals are high in calories, sugar, and fat. Don’t stop at the front of the cereal box, check out the Nutrition Facts Panel for calorie, carb, and fiber information.

Now that you know the corn flakes in the cupboard don’t contain enough fiber…don’t throw them away. Check out our healthy chicken recipe that both you and your kids will love!

Chicken Nuggets with Mustard Dipping Sauce


8 servings (serving size: 5 nuggets and 1 1/2 tablespoons sauce)


· Chicken:
· 1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
· 1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into 40 pieces
· 3 3/4 cups cornflakes
· 1 teaspoon paprika
· 1/2 teaspoon sugar
· 1/4 teaspoon salt
· Cooking spray


· 1/2 cup prepared mustard
· 1/4 cup honey
· 1/2 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger


To prepare chicken, combine buttermilk and chicken. Marinate in refrigerator 30 minutes; drain.

Preheat oven to 375°.

Place cornflakes, paprika, sugar, and salt in a food processor; process until cornflakes are finely chopped. Combine chicken and cornflake mixture, tossing well to coat. Place the chicken on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Bake at 375° for 15 minutes or until done.

To prepare sauce, combine mustard, honey, and ginger. Serve with chicken.

Nutritional Information

Calories: 190 (9% from fat) Fat: 1.8g (sat 0.4g,mono 0.6g,poly 0.4g) Protein: 21.8g Carbohydrate: 21.3g

Fiber: 0.8g Cholesterol: 50mg Iron: 1.3mg Sodium: 425mg Calcium: 40mg

Cynthia DePersio, Cooking Light, AUGUST 2003

If you follow these guidelines your everyday foods will be much improved! For more information regarding eating healthy and other nutrition topics, please contact

Jennifer McDaniel, MS, RD.

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