Finding an Ideal Cereal

(The Monterey County Herald/MCT) -

“Good afternoon,” began the voice on my answering machine. “My name is Mary Margaret Graham — like the crackers! I am 91 years of age. I can still drive, and I walk without a cane. But I am getting older.

“I would like to ask,” the message continued, “what is the best kind of dry cereal that I can buy in a box that has some nutrition connected with it? And not a lot of salt. One that’s going to give me energy and vitality and doesn’t take too long to prepare. I have been boiling my own oatmeal and putting raisins in it. Thank you for taking the time to answer this.”

Very good question, Mrs. Graham. Here are some guidelines I would recommend:

Whole grain is the primary ingredient. Whole grain means the whole kernel of the grain is present in the product. That includes the bran (fiber), endosperm (energy source) and germ (vitamins and minerals).

Less than 140 milligrams of sodium per serving. That’s the official definition of a low sodium food according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Good news. Cereal makers are now voluntarily lowering the sodium in many of their products.

At least 2 to 3 grams of dietary fiber per serving. You can find this information on any Nutrition Facts label. If a cereal has less than 2 grams of fiber in a serving, find something else.

At least 3 grams of protein per serving. Not that cereal is your primary source of protein. But new research suggests a higher amount of protein at breakfast might help you stay slim. Another way you can add protein to your cereal at breakfast: Add milk, yogurt or nuts (unsalted, of course).

Your cooked oatmeal is a great option as well with whole grain oats, no sodium, 4 grams of fiber and 5 grams of protein per serving. Your raisins add even more fiber and some natural fruit sugar for energy. And if you add milk to your cereal, you’ll get even more protein at breakfast.

With the enthusiasm in your voice, Mrs. Graham, I’d say you’ve been doing pretty well in the nutrition department for the past 91 years. Thanks for the call.