by Heidi McIndoo, M.S., R.D.
Nothing is better than starting off a cool morning with a steaming bowl of hot cereal. In addition to warming you and tasting great, hot cereal can be low in fat, high in fiber, and a great source of whole grains. This breakfast, combined with a good protein choice like milk, soymilk or nuts, and unsweetened fruit, can help set you up for a healthy day.
Today, there are a variety of hot cereals in supermarkets in easy packages, pouches and cups, containing all sorts of ingredients, such as hemp, flax and berries. But with so many options, it can be tough to know if your cereal is a healthy, nutrient-packed breakfast or the equivalent of a sugar-coated cold cereal.
We scanned dozens of hot morning cereals, and found some products with as much sodium as a medium-sized order of fries, as much sugar as two-thirds of a Milky Way candy bar, and as much fat as three strips of bacon. But, we also found many hot cereals that can fit into a healthy breakfast.
Keep these tips in mind to make the most of your morning cereal:
Top It With Milk
Boost your calcium and protein intake at breakfast by using low-fat milk instead of water to cook your cereal. Keep in mind that it may take a bit longer to cook with added milk.
Jazz It Up
Many people opt for flavored cereal pouches because plain hot cereal is just so... plain. But if you choose plain, you can doctor it up yourself to boost taste and nutrition, with much less sugar and sodium than those flavored packets.
Spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, ingredients such as dried or fresh fruit, chopped nuts, or hemp and flax seeds, and even extracts like vanilla or coconut can add loads of flavor and texture, as well as nutrition.
Do It Yourself
Homemade hot cereal from scratch can be a lot less expensive and better for the environment (less packaging means less trash). Make a large batch of hot breakfast porridge, such as oatmeal (old-fashioned or steel cut), quinoa, farro, amaranth, or teff, and reheat it in serving sizes on busy mornings. Don't add the toppings until after you reheat it, to retain a nice texture.