The nutrition labels on boxes of cereal are packed with information about vitamins, fiber, fat and carbohydrates. More often than not, cereal labels feature a detailed breakdown of enticing vitamins and minerals. These details, however, can be misleading. Just because a certain type of cereal contains high levels of vitamins and minerals does not mean that it is a healthy choice. In fact, a vitamin-rich cereal might be packed with high amounts of sugar and fat. You can choose cereals that are good for you based on labels by learning what things to look for and prioritizing the information.
Leave No Stone Unturned
When you first look at a cereal nutrition label, carefully read all of the information. Do not skip to one "key" area, such as fat content or carbohydrates. Read each line carefully and leave no stone unturned. This will help you get a full picture of what is inside the box. Looking at nutrition labels in their entirety can give you a more realistic understanding of whether or not what you hold in your hand is a healthy choice.
Check the Serving Size
After you have reviewed the entire label, the next step is to take a look at the serving size. Different manufacturers feature different serving sizes, and you need to make sure that you understand how much cereal you should be eating to correspond with the other information on the label. The numbers on the entire label are based on the assumption that you are only eating the recommended serving size. Many cereals come in one-cup serving sizes, but if you look carefully, you will find that some labels state that a serving size is just half a cup.
Understanding Percent Daily Value Figures
Most vitamins and minerals are listed on cereal nutrition labels in percentages, and those percentages are based on the amount of nutrients the average consumer will take in in one recommended serving size. The percent daily value is based on an estimated number--2,000 calories per day for the average person. For example, if a label says the cereal contains 50% of vitamin A, it means that it contains 50% of the vitamin A necessary in one day for a person who consumes 2,000 calories. Your caloric intake may be more or less than 2,000. If you are on a weight loss plan, you may limit yourself to fewer calories and need to consider that when you read labels. On the other hand, if you are training for a marathon rigorously, the body might require more than 2,000 calories to fuel it through challenging training. The important thing to remember is that the percent daily value figures are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.
Check the Pertinent Components
When you are reading cereal labels, you can hone in on pertinent components to help evaluate the product. These include calories, fat, protein, fiber and sodium. Choose cereals that are low in fat, calories and sodium, and those that are high in fiber and protein. These critical components can help you maintain a healthier lifestyle.