Packaged breakfast cereal often gets a bad wrap. With many options either full of sugar, low in fibre or high in salt, I can understand why.
Current research into gut health however, clearly indicates that a diet high in wholegrains is important for maintaining a diverse gut biome (a large collection of good bacteria that live in your gut). The undigested components of wholegrains (known as prebiotics) act as a fuel source for these bacteria. When these good bacteria break down the prebiotics, they produce a range of “bi-products” which are thought to have a number of beneficial effects on our body. Packaged breakfast cereals can be a good source of wholegrains (and other nutrients) if you know what to look for. Wholegrain breakfast cereals are a great source of fibre which is a nutrient often lacking in young children’s diets. Getting enough fibre each day helps prevent constipation.
I scoured the supermarket to give you my round up on what I consider to be some of the best packaged options available.
- Shredded Wheat Biscuits
Uncle Toby’s Shredded Wheat Biscuits contain 100% wholewheat and not a single other ingredient! Winner! Because it’s just wheat, the salt content of this product is very low at 21mg per 100g. The fibre content is excellent at 12.2.g per 100g.
I also think the shredded look of these biscuits is highly appealing to children.
Sanitarium Weet-Bix are made from 97% wholegrain wheat. They have a small amount of added sugar and salt, but overall their nutritional content is good with just 3.3 g of sugar per 100g (that’s just under 1 teaspoon of sugar per 7 Weet-Bix!). This product is also fortified with the B vitamins niacin, thiamin, riboflavin, folate as well as iron. The iron content of Weet-Bix is particularly impressive. Two Weet-Bix provides 3mg of iron which is 30% of a 4-8 yr old’s daily requirement. If your child struggles to eat meat or other iron rich sources of food (likes eggs, legumes and nuts for example), then using a fortified cereal such as Weet-Bix may be beneficial.
Uncle Toby’s Weeties are a wheat flake made from 99% wholegrain wheat. They contain a small amount of added salt (still quite reasonable at 375mg/100g) and no added sugar. Like Weet-Bix they are fortified with some B vitamins (thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, and folic acid), however they don’t contain any added iron (note: wholegrains are naturally a source of what is called non haem iron. To ensure an adequate intake of Iron I would always recommend that families choose wholegrain bread and cereal options over white refined options that are lower in naturally occurring iron).
4. Muesli (natural or toasted)
Natural or Swiss style muesli is a muesli made without added fats or sugar. It usually contains a variety of dried fruits, oats, nuts and seeds. Toasted muesli will have a similar composition, but also includes a fat (usually a canola or sunflower oil) and a sugar source (eg honey, molasses, maple syrup or similar) and is oven baked giving it a crunchy texture.
A toasted muesli will usually have a higher fat, sugar and calorie content. That said, many people often prefer it’s “crunchy roasted flavour” and given all the beneficial nutrients otherwise found in muesli, I think a toasted muesli is still a sound choice. Look for varieties cooked in a quality oil (such as sunflower, canola or rapeseed, not generic “vegetable oil”) and those with sugar listed lower down the list of ingredients.
Personally I like to use a swiss or natural muesli as a base to make Bircher Muesli from, and a toasted muesli to eat with milk, yoghurt and fruit.
My personal favourite is Carmen’s Classic Fruit and Nut Muesli. The fat and sugar content of this product are both moderate, but it’s worth noting that some of the fat is naturally occurring from the nuts and seeds, and much of the sugar content comes from the dried fruit.
All things considered both natural and toasted meusli’s are good minimally processed breakfast options that are high in fibre, good fats (from the nuts and seeds), potassium, magnesium, zinc, B vitamins and vitamin C.
You can balance out your breakfast and maximise your nutrition, by serving your choice of cereal with a reduced fat milk, greek style yoghurt and some fruit. Not only are you adding more fibre and fuel for your good bacteria by adding some fruit, but the addition of dairy also contributes calcium and phosphorus needed for bone health.