Cereal is a great way for children to start the day

How to choose cereals that give children a great start to the day

According to doctors and nutritionists, your child should have breakfast every single day, as it is the most important meal of the day. After all, this is the meal which helps replenish lost nutrients after the long night’s fast. And when you think of a healthy breakfast for your bundle of joy, the first thing that comes to mind is cereal. Apart from providing a lot of energy, it can keep him full and supply essential nutrients as well. Here are some more reasons why cereals are an ideal way to start your child’s day.

Importance of cereals

Cereals are the go-to breakfast item for your kids that can be paired with fruits and milk for a quick and easy meal. Studies have also shown that children who eat cereal for breakfast are less likely to overeat than those who have other breakfast options.

The best cereals in India

Some of the healthy breakfast cereals found in India are wheat flakes, oats, porridge, muesli, rice crispies (poha), etc. Cereal bars are also good breakfast options, but make sure to choose those that contain dried fruits, nuts and whole grains. All cereals can be paired with low-fat milk or yoghurt and fruits.

You can also offer your kid cooked oats topped with almonds or other dried fruits, smoothies made of fruits, plain yoghurt and a spoonful of wheat germ, or a whole wheat sandwich stuffed with lean meat, low fat cheese, spinach, tomato, cucumber and bell peppers. French toast made with whole wheat bread, egg whites, cinnamon and vanilla, is also a great and tasty idea.

Important tips for selecting the right cereal for breakfast

Breakfast cereals are undeniably convenient and very easy to prepare. Plus, you can choose from a number of cereals that are low in sugar, high in fibre and highly nutritious. Many researches also support the fact that cereals improve a child’s nutrition profile, prevent them from becoming overweight, and even improve their brain power. When paired with milk, cereals become powerhouses of fibre and zinc. Here are some tips for selecting the right cereals.

  • Even though children might prefer a high-sugar cereal, they are more likely to accept fruits when given a low-sugar cereal. So, parents can either give them low-sugar cereals with chopped fresh fruits or add a little honey, which is much healthier than giving them a high-sugar cereal. This strategy also reduces the amount of added sugars in children’s diets. Moreover, you will be teaching them healthy habits this way.
  • While shopping for cereals, don’t get distracted by colourful packaging or cartoon characters on the cereal packages. More often, cereals that are not specifically meant for kids have less sugar and more fibre in them. So, skip the description or the health claims written on the package and always focus on the nutrition label.
  • Ideally, cereals should have a fibre content of 2 (if not 5) gm per serving. High-fibre cereals for kids are always healthier. The sugar content should not be more than 10 to 12 gm per serving. Also, choose whole-grain cereals like wheat, brown rice and corn. Refined grains have no or very little fibre and nutrients in them, as compared to whole grains. Look for 100% whole grains of any type as a key first ingredient rather than just whole grains. The latter means just half of the cereal is made up of whole grains. Starting your kid's day with too much sugar can disrupt their hunger signals and their mood, and makes them more susceptible to diabetes.
  • Healthy cereals for toddlers should not have more than 220 mg of sodium in a serving, as it is not good for your kid’s heart or blood pressure. Cereals are usually high in carbohydrates, amounting to a total of 22 percent of the daily intake. Breakfast cereals are rich in iron and magnesium too, and have moderate levels of calcium and vitamin B6. They are very low in sodium and potassium. They usually do not have vitamin A, C, D and B12.
  • Additionally, make sure that the cereals are well within the expiry date and they have the FSSAI logo and licence number. Do not buy any damaged products.
  • You can add non-fat, low sugar Greek yogurt to your kid’s cereal to meet their protein requirements. If you want a non-dairy alternative, soy yoghurt is the best substitute, and some brands even ensure 8 to 10gm of protein per serving.
  • Breakfast cereals can be had hot or cold. Hot cereals like steel cut oats, oat bran, millet, quinoa and other such whole grains with loads of fibre and zero sugar (if you choose unflavoured ones) are always a good breakfast option. Hot cereals are often known to provide better satiety than dry cereals.
  • Make sure the breakfast cereals that you choose for your kids do not have any binders, carriers, emulsifiers, stabilizers, raising agents, texturisers, fillers, colours and flavours. These can be harmful to your kids if added above recommended levels. FSSAI has suggested only food additives like erythritol (maximum limit as GMP) and butylated hydroxyanisole (maximum limit of 50 ppm) for breakfast cereals.

So, remember that your kid’s breakfast doesn’t need to be loaded with sugars and fats to give him energy and satiety. It needs to be healthy, fibre-rich and loaded with complex carbohydrates, essential vitamins and minerals. So, choose cereals only after reading nutrition labels and give your child the best start possible, every day.