When choosing cereals, whole grains should always be one of the first things you look for on the label. Choosing cereals with whole grains is important because they still retain some of their bran and germ. These parts of the grain are what provide fiber and many essential nutrients. Refined grains, like white bread or white rice, lack the bran and germ. During the removal process, fiber and many additional nutrients are lost, leaving you with a less nutritious product. Often manufacturers have to add in nutrients like thiamin, iron, niacin and riboflavin. The best choice is choose whole grains over more processed choices.
The term 'whole grains' refers to the entire edible part of any grain. Some of the most common whole grains available include; rice, wheat, corn, oats, buckwheat, bulgur, millet, quinoa, sorghum, triticale, barley, rye and many others. The reason that whole grains are so nutrient dense is because this is the seed from which a new plant will grow. The seed/ whole grain contains 3 parts, the endosperm, bran and germ. The bran is on the outside and contains antioxidants, trace minerals, fiber and some B vitamins. The endosperm is the inner part of the grain and has proteins and carbohydrates. The germ is where a new plant would sprout from, so it has lots of essential fats, antioxidants, trace minerals, and many vitamins.
But keep in mind that things being brown or claiming to be multigrain do not mean necessarily mean they are healthier. Coloring can be added to bread, to give the appearance of being whole grain or healthy but still lack the nutrients. Even some whole wheat bread is made from white wheat and looks like white bread, but has the benefits of being a whole wheat product. Reading the label will help you decipher which product is actually contains whole grains.
To get a whole-grain label, a product must contain 51% or more of whole grain ingredients by weight. When a label reads high fiber, it must contain 5 grams or more per serving. A good source of fiber will be 2.5 to 4.9 grams per serving. The added fiber label indicates that there is at least 2.5g more added per serving. However high fiber does not necessarily indicate whole grains, as well as whole grain products might not have a lot of fiber.
Six Cereals made with Whole Grains
1. Bob's Red Mill Whole Grain 10 Grain Hot Cereal
This cereal is made from rye, triticale, millet, oats, brown rice, corn, oat bran, flaxseeds, barley, soy beans and wheat. One serving has 130 calories, 6 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber, which is 20% of your daily needs! Another benefit of this hot cereal is that it can be easily added to many baking recipes to increase the nutritional benefits, so consider baking some delicious whole grain muffins.
2. Grape Nuts
These are found in almost every grocery store! A single serving of Grape Nuts contains 5 grams of fiber, 7 grams of protein and 123% of your daily iron needs. This cereal contains whole grain wheat flour, malted barley flour, several B vitamins, vitamin D and folic acid.
3. Barbara's Original Puffins
For people looking for cereals that are wheat-free but still whole grain, consider trying Barbara's Original Puffins. In a single 90 calorie ¾ cup serving there are 5 grams of fiber and 2 grams of protein. Plus they do not contain GMO's and are vegan.
4. Kashi Go Lean Cereal
This cereal is also GMO-free and in a 180 calorie 1 ¼ cup serving you get 12 grams of protein and 13 grams of fiber. That is 20% of your daily protein and 40% of your daily fiber needs! Add fresh fruit to your bowl for added flavor and even more fiber!
5. General Mills KIX
At 110 calories per 1 1/4 cup serving, this is one of the lower calorie cereal choices. It is made with whole grain corn and has 3 grams of fiber and 2 grams of protein. But be sure to drink your milk! To get the high levels of vitamins and minerals into cereals that might not naturally have them, manufacturers spray them on, and milk can wash them off!
6. Pagan Oatmeal
Alone oatmeal is a delicious and a great way to eat whole grains. A single 40 gram serving has 147 calories, 3.6 grams of fiber and 4.8 grams of protein. Try oatmeal 'pagan style' by adding additional whole grains to it like ground millet and other fiber-rich foods like flaxseeds, nuts, and fruit.
Emily DeLacey MS, RD is a Registered Dietitian and currently working in Jamaica as a HIV/ AIDS Prevention Specialist. She attended Central Washington University for her Bachelor's Degree in Science and Dietetics and continued on after her internship to Kent State University for her Master's Degree in Science and Nutrition, with a focus on public health and advocacy. She served as a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer in Malawi 2012-2014 working as a Community Health Advisor in a rural village, immersing in the joys of life without electricity or running water. She has been to 20+ countries and 47 of the 50 states in the US. Traveling, adventuring and experiencing new cultures has made her a passionate advocate for the equality of nutrition and wellness for all people.