The Nutrition Facts table and the ingredient list on food labels are indispensable tools.
Today’s cereal aisles overflow with a daunting array of products. This can present a challenge to people with diabetes. Can you trust the amount of sugar or the number of grams of fibre on the label? What is the right serving size? What about dietary fibre? Should it be counted as a carbohydrate?
Here are a few tips to help you make an informed breakfast choice.
Carbohydrates aside, the other nutrients on the Nutrition Facts table can make a difference to your health, even if they don’t directly affect your glycemia. You need to check the amount of fat (total, saturated and trans) and sodium (salt) for your cardiovascular health.
Here are our recommended nutritional criteria for selecting good breakfast cereals:
For a 30 g serving:
- 3 g or less of fat
- 0 g of trans fats
- 240 mg or less of sodium
- 2 g or more of dietary fibre
- 5 g or less of sugar*
* 10 g or less of sugar if the cereal contains dried fruit and little added sugar.
Compare apples with apples
The reference serving size on the Nutrition Facts table can vary by type of cereal and brand. One brand might use a serving size of 34 g; another, 55 g. Always check the reference serving size and adjust it, if necessary, before comparing two products or deciding whether a product meets the recommended criteria above.
Don’t rely on marketing claims
You have undoubtedly noticed claims like “made from whole grains,” “7 grains,” or even “multigrain,” prominently displayed on cereal boxes. These claims can be misleading. At first glance, you might conclude that the cereal is barely processed and contains lots of fibre. That is not always the case.
In some cases, a highly refined grain will be the main ingredient, with only a tiny amount of whole grains added. Other cereals may contain several grains, but not necessarily in whole-grain form. Thus, promotional claims do not guarantee good nutritional value. Some cereals may not contain enough fibre or may have too much added sugar.
You should always double-check the claims against the Nutrition Facts table on the box. You can also check the ingredient list and opt for cereals where whole grains top the list.
If you choose a low-fibre cereal, you can always add a small quantity of oat bran, wheat bran or even combine it with a high-fibre cereal (e.g.: All-Bran®, All-Bran® Buds® with psyllium, Fibre 1®).
The best cereals
Choose a whole-grain cereal with few added ingredients. Then you can add fresh or dried fruit, nuts and seeds yourself. Your cereals will be tastier and more nutritious.
Mix up a large batch and keep it in a tightly sealed container.
Research and text: Diabetes Québec Team of Dietitians
June 2014 (updated on July 2018)
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