Just how popular is cereal in this country? Pretty freakin’ popular — that’s how much. According to industry researcher IBISWorld, cereal is a $10 billion business, annually. Not impressed? Well, did you know that more than 2.5 billion boxes of cereal are sold each year? Yeah, that’s a lot of oaty-O’s.
But here’s another statistic that’s a bit more disconcerting: According to Scott Bruce and Bill Crawford, authors of Cerealizing America: The Unsweetened Story of American Breakfast Cereal, those boxes of cereal contain upwards of 816 million pounds of sugar. Yikes!
Odds are you, dear reader, are someone who enjoys a bowl of Flavo-Puffs in the morning, same as the rest of us. And that 816 million pounds of sugar has got to make you wonder: Is cereal, the breakfast food I love — so, so much — even good for me?
“Cereals can be good for you if they have a lot of fiber in them,” says Dana Hunnes, senior dietitian at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. “Some good examples are bran cereals with fruit in them (try to find one without too much added sugar), or shredded wheat with bran, or fiber cereals that do not have too much added sugar or even good ol’ fashioned Cheerios. They can be a source of good carbohydrates, not too much fat and can help fuel your mind.”
Bran equals good cereal, check. So what’s a bad cereal, then? “I don’t recommend sugared or dyed cereals,” Hunnes says. “Anything with unnatural coloring, or marshmallows — you know the ones I’m talking about. Also, I would suggest having cereal with non-dairy milk, like soy, coconut, almond, etc. That’s because you can buy those without sugar added, which dairy inherently has thanks to lactose, along with unhealthy amounts of casein.”
So if you stick with bran cereal and avoid dyes, added sugar and cow’s milk, how often can you eat the stuff, then? “If it’s a cereal with few ingredients and low in sugar, and you stick to the box-recommended portion size of around 2 ounces, once a day is perfectly fine,” advises Hunnes.
What? You thought we were going to ruin another one of your favorite foods, like eggs, ice cream or deli meat? Good news: your daily bowl-of-cereal habit is safe this time. That said, you might want to cut your intake by half, at least, considering 2 ounces is just a measly quarter cup (no, I won’t get mad at you for eating double or triple that — treat yourself).
On the other hand, if you’re a stickler for adhering to the rules and 2 ounces just isn’t going to cut it, you could always eat what Dr. Hunnes eats: “Blueberries mixed with unsweetened soy milk and chia seeds, which turns into a kinda chia/blueberry pudding, and without any added sugar.” Not gonna lie — that sounds better than any bran cereal I’ve ever heard of.