If you like cereal for breakfast or a late night snack, you’re not alone. The most popular varieties I see on food logs are Honey Bunches of Oats, Honey Nut or regular Cheerios, Special K, Chex, Raisin Bran, etc. While these don’t have a ton of sugar it’s certainly true that they’re processed and lack protein and fiber so they break down very fast in the bloodstream as sugar/glucose. All highly processed carbohydrates do that. Luckily, when we use dairy or soy milk we add some protein to the mix, but unfortunately beverages are digested quickly too. Bottom line is that any processed cereal digests quickly and can create a rise in blood sugar and for some a dopamine-induced pleasure response. And for some this can lead to an addictive response and cravings can escalate. This can certainly make it challenging to maintain or lose weight.
There are other reasons cereal can be alluring; we usually have it around and it’s easy. The crunch of cereal before it gets soggy can also be highly rewarding as we seek to chew our way out of the day’s stress.
When confronted with your next bowl of processed flakes, here are some whole food add-ins that can bring you more satiety and nutrition. You’ll likely feel fuller longer and avoid some of the physiological responses that lead to being hungry sooner or craving more. Try swapping half your bowl with the following add-ins:
- Raw rolled oats (full of fiber and protein)
- Dried fruit
- Frozen blueberries (keeps the milk cold)
- Sliced banana
- Sliced almonds or chopped nuts (full of fiber, protein, and healthy fat)
If you’d like to start with a higher protein cereal, try any of the Kashi Go Lean varieties or Special K Protein Plus. (Kashi Go Lean also has added fiber.) I still think the whole food add-ins listed above are better choices as their nutrients take longer to digest and enter the bloodstream.
So, my advice is to experiment with ways to make your cereal less flaky. With half of your bowl as whole food add-ins, you’ve turned your average bowl into a better bowl.