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Experts say that breakfast is an important meal – it jump starts your metabolism, gives you energy, and helps you stay on a healthier track and eat smarter throughout the day.

But, according to a new report from the Environmental Working Group, a health research and advocacy organization, fortified breakfast cereals may provide unhealthy amounts of certain nutrients, particularly to children.

The group said that “millions of children are ingesting potentially unhealthy amounts” of vitamin A, zinc and niacin, and that fortified breakfast cereals are the main source of this high intake. The three nutrients are added to these cereals in amounts calculated for adults.

How To Choose A Better Breakfast Cereal

Navigating the breakfast cereal aisle of your grocery store is a great big sea of contradictions: cereals with refined grains, no fiber, but with lots of vitamins, cereals with lots of whole grains and fiber, but with as much added sugar as a candy bar, etc.

So how can you choose what’s best for you and your family?

Experts say that choosing a healthy breakfast cereal is mainly about getting in whole grains – research suggests those who eat more whole grains are at lower risk of diabetes and heart disease.

“Consumers should aim to select cereals that are high in fiber, ones that are made with whole grains,” says Sandra Affenito, PhD, RD, CDN, an associate professor in the department of nutrition at Saint Joseph College. “Americans of all ages do not consume the recommended fiber intake.”

In addition to whole grains, your breakfast cereal needs to be low in sugar, and contain no saturated fat or trans fat. A helpful tool is the nutrition panel on the side of the cereal box (ignore any health claims made on the front). Compare the nutrition listing to the overall serving size. For example, if a cereal says it has 10 grams of sugar and a serving size of 30 grams, that means the cereal is one-third sugar, which isn’t the healthiest of choices.

In addition:

  • A product’s ingredients are listed in order of quantity. If the first or second ingredient is refined, the cereal probably isn’t very good for you. Always look at the first two ingredients listed.
  • Consider adding your own fruits and other healthy ingredients to your cereal for added nutritional benefits.