It's the breakfast staple that's often spruiked as being the healthiest choice. But that box of cereal on your kitchen benchtop might not be the best option, according to Australian dietitian, Ali Patterson.
The Victoria-based expert told Coach that despite their wholesome image, many cereals are packed with sugar.
'Unfortunately many breakfast cereals on the market are highly processed with lots of added sugars and can be low in fibre,' Ms Patterson told the publication.
So just how do you know if the box you're looking at in the supermarket is the right choice? First of all, Ms Patterson said it's important to look at the ingredients list - the shorter the better. "Since ingredients are listed in order from highest to lowest proportion, ideally we want to choose cereals with wholegrain, fibre-rich ingredients near the start of the list – for example oats, wholegrain bran flakes and dried fruit," she said.
The expert said that consumers should keep an eye out for any words that reveal the packet contains sugar.
'Other words like 'clusters' or 'granola' can also be clues that there may be added sugar in the cereal,' she added.
The dietitian went on to say that rice bubbles are a good choice for those wanting to steer clear of the sweet stuff - with a sugar content of 15g per serve when eaten with full fat milk.
But her top pick, however, is oats.
"They’re cheap, high in fibre and have no added sugars," she said. "Best of all they’re so versatile – you can make them into porridge, muesli or soak them overnight and turn them into a bircher."
BREAKFAST CEREAL TIPS BY LYNDI COHEN
* FIBRE: To supercharge her cereal, Lyndi Cohen will always add a handful of nuts or seeds to boost fibre.
* PORTIONS: Instead of weighing her cereal, Ms Cohen will eat it with a teaspoon from a teacup and fill up on fruit if she's still hungry afterwards.
* CLUSTERS: They might taste great, but Ms Cohen said they often contain lots of sugar and are best avoided.
* GLUTEN-FREE: Unless you are gluten-free, Ms Cohen said don't make this choice, as often the cereals will contain less fibre.
* SUGAR: Check to see how much refined sugar a cereal has, and check to see if it's listed in the top three or four ingredients.
* LOW GI: Some cereals will say on the packet if they are low GI, but it costs companies quite a lot to test this. Lots of home-brand oats will also be low GI.
* BUFFET: Ms Cohen finally said you need to choose a cereal which will maintain its structure for longer. Low fibre breakfast cereals go soggy really quickly when you add milk. Something like oats or Sultana Bran will maintain its structure and is better for you. Source: Lyndi Cohen