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Cereal concerns

It’s Breakfast cereals are getting bad press again. Are they healthy enough for breakfast everyday? Read on to find out.

health and fitness Updated: Apr 15, 2010 16:31 IST
Sai Raje

It’s Breakfast cereals are getting bad press again. Just this week, The Guardian reported how 26 people and organisations in the United Kingdom, including the Children’s Food Campaign, complained to the Advertising Standards Authority that a chocolate flavoured cereal ad was irresponsible because it targeted school children and encouraged them to eat a snack that was particularly high in sugar (about 35 gm for every 100 gm of cereal). The ASA rejected the complaints, accepting the cereal making company’s argument that although that brand of cereal contains approximately 35 per cent sugar, there was no current UK or EU definition of “high” as far as sugar content is concerned.

So how do we know what is high or low in sugar? And with the focus now so strongly on ‘healthy’, ‘low-fat’ and ‘low-sugar’ snacks, how do we know how healthy or unhealthy flavoured breakfast cereals are? We checked out the nutrition labels of a few popular flavoured breakfast cereal brands available on Mumbai’s supermarket shelves (chocolate, strawberry and honey flavoured) and found that all of them had 35 gm of sugar per 100 gm of cereal.

“35 gm of sugar is high, especially when you consider children. In most households breakfast cereals are had with milk to which sugar has already been added. That increases the sugar intake even further,” says dietician Jyoti Lalwani. The sugar content is high even when you consider that the ideal portion size of 30 gm (4 tablespoons) contains about 10 gm of sugar.Natural, home cooked cereals are any day better than processed preservative-laden cereals, according to Lalwani. “Cereals aren’t an absolute no-no though. Your children can have cereals for breakfast every alternate day without added sugar in the milk, as long as you make the effort to serve them something healthy and home cooked on other days,” she adds.

Tasty, homemade cereal
If you want to give your children a healthy home cooked breakfast while also satisfying their craving for sugary cereal, you can always make your own at home. Neha Chandna, nutritionist, Bodyholics Fitness Solutions, says that you can make a nourishing, tasty cereal for your children by topping dalia (broken wheat) or plain oats cooked in milk with their favourite toppings. “You can add chopped fruit, raisins, nuts, a pinch of jaggery, a spoonful of honey or even chocolate chips to make it fun for the children,” she says.