We sent dieticians food labels from the aisles of the supermarket and online, and had them narrow down on the next best option to fresh, home-cooked morning meals

What makes for a healthy breakfast? “Balanced nutrients, with about 50% carbohydrates, 20% to 30% proteins and the rest from fats,” says dietician Pradeepa Saravanan, based out of Coimbatore. A traditional breakfast of fermented, steamed foods like idli are gut-friendly, and when had with vegetable protein-based sambar made with seasonal vegetables that give fibre, is just right.

For rushed families who want to build nutritious meals, but just don’t have the time, the next best option is packaged foods that are minimally processed. “Packaged breakfast cereals are made from processed grains and are often high in sugars and refined carbs,” cautions Bengaluru-based dietician Dharshini Surendran.

“Read the food label to find out how much sugar the product contains. The first two or three ingredients are the most important, as they constitute the majority of the cereal. If you see sugar in top three, avoid buying it. Cereals are not advisable for those with diabetes andother health issues,” she adds. The best bet is to look at a pack where sugar (in all its different names) is not included at all. Refined oils and additives are also not good for health. The pack must have the mandatory FSSAI accreditation, and date of manufacture and expiry. The longer the shelf life, the more likely the product will have preservatives.

Do remember though that even when there are no added sugars, the elderly and those above 40 should avoid any packaged breakfast cereal as porridge. “Almost 80% of any cereal (whether rice, wheat, or rajma) is made up of carbs, which get converted to sugar,” says Pradeepa. She adds that in porridge form 1 tablespoon has far more quantity that the same amount as a whole grain. The processing also means it has a high glycaemic index. “ As wholegrains, we tend to consume less than as a porridge form,” says Pradeepa.

If you do choose to eat packaged cereal for breakfast, here are some healthier options vetted by dieticians.

Cereal Crunchies, Timios

₹160 for a 300 gram pack

The main ingredients are whole wheat flour, natural strawberries, beetroot juice powder and cocoa powder. This is a high calorie product suitable for under-weight children and adolescents. “The energy is 353 calories per serving of 100 grams which is good for children. They get gluten fibre, however those who are gluten intolerant should avoid it.” However, the strawberries and beet powder are used in minimal amounts.

The best packaged breakfast cereals for kids

Health Mix, Manna

₹104 for a 250 gram pack

The main ingredients are ragi, millet, barley, jowar, maize and pulses like fried green gram and nuts that include groundnut, cashew nut and almonds. “It is a high calorie breakfast ideal for children (age 5 and above) and adolescents,” says Pradeepa. There are no added sugars, which is good.

The best packaged breakfast cereals for kids

Ragi, Rice & Banana Cereal, Slurrp Farm

₹300 for a 200 gram pack

The blend includes ragi, jowar, rice and natural banana powder.“The advantage is the use of banana as a sweetener. The sugar comes in fructose form from the fruit. And ragi is the dominating ingredient which ensures that it is packed with calcium,” says Dharshini. “The energy per 100 gram serving is 400 calories, good for under-weight children, school-going children and adolescents. The carbs are 71.5 grams, important for brain development and memory function,” explains Pradeepa.

The best packaged breakfast cereals for kids

Quinoa Granola Breakfast Cereal, Urban Platter

₹500 for a 500 gram pack

Contains extruded (polished) quinoa flakes, almonds, raisins, jaggery, and pineapple flavour (in powder form). “It is good for underweight children, especially in the age group of five to 12. There are adequate nutrients and minerals which a growing child requires,” says Pradeepa.

Multigrain Porridge, Ammae

₹120 for a 200 gram pack

The best packaged breakfast cereals for kids

It contains a combination of 16 grains including amaranth seeds, millets, chickpeas, parboiled rice, barley, maize, soya, wheat, oats grain, horse gram, green gram and poppy seeds.It makes for a complete meal because of the combination of all these, says Dharshini. It is balanced in terms of its energy and protein content.

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