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How Nutritious Is Cereal?

CBS Consumer Correspondent Herb Weisbaum says cereal is one of the best breakfasts you can have if you pick the right kind.

But which cereal should you choose? There are so many brands with so many competing claims. You have to be a careful label reader to know what you're really getting, he says.



Many people are now trying to get more fiber in their diets. At first glance, Apple Cinnamon Cheerios might seem like a perfect choice, especially since the box front indicates that it's a whole grain oat cereal. But that doesn't mean it has much fiber.

Check the nutrition label on the side panel; this reveals it only has 1 gram of fiber per serving, one-third of whatÂ's in regular Cheerios, and one-fourth of the amount in a serving of hot oatmeal.

According to nutritionists at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Apple Cinnamon Cheerios have much more sugar than regular Cheerios. And thereÂ's less room for the whole grains, which means you get less fiber.

The same sort of thing is true with Sunrise, the new organic cereal made by General Mills. The package front says it's made from certified organic corn and whole wheat.

Don't assume that this means it is rich in fiber. There's more organic corn flour and organic sugar in the box than organic whole wheat so Sunrise only has 1 gram of fiber per serving.

Health claims are another thing to check. The side panel of Quaker 100 Percent Natural Granola with Oats and Honey claims itÂ's a cholesterol-free food - and it is. But what's really important is how much fat it has. ThereÂ's plenty. According to the nutrition label, a single serving has 9 grams of fat, about as much fat as is found in a small hamburger.

If you spend much time in the cereal section, you've probably noticed how companies are making new cereals using their old, well-established brand names.

But careful label readers will notice that these spinoffs are not always as healthful as the originals. Frosted Wheaties are not the same as regular Wheaties, which are made from whole wheat and have 3 grams of fiber per serving and 4 grams of sugar.

Frosted Wheaties are mostly refined corn meal and sugar. So you get no fiber per serving and 12 grams of sugar. That is as much sugar as there is in Cap'n Crunch.

What's a smart shopper do?

Beware of claims on the front of the package that may tell the truth but not the whole truth. To get the complete picture, read the nutrition label to compare one brand to another.

Just because a cereal is fat-free doesn't mean it's low calorie. There are lots of cereals that are fat-free but with as much as a third or more sugar. Just because it's cholesterol-free doesn't mean it's fat-free. And a multigrain cereal doesn't mean it has much fiber.

Check kids' cereal, too. Many of them have a third or more sugar. And many new cereals aimed at adults, like Smart Start and Raisin Bran Crunch, are also loaded with sugar.

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