Make your way down the cereal aisle and you’ll see an overwhelming number of new hot breakfast options. With so many to choose from, how do you know what’s best for your family? “Start by selecting whole grains to help combat heart disease, cancer and diabetes and maintain a healthy body weight,” says St. John’s, Nfld., dietitian Lori Warford-Woolgar. “But a good source of whole grain is not always a good source of fibre,” she warns. Of course, taste is always an important factor too. That’s why we enlisted the Barker family from Tilbury, Ont., (parents Catherine Collins-Barker and Justin Barker, and their sons, Collin, 10, and Nigel, 6), to taste, test, and tell us how it all went.
Pocono Cream of Buckwheat
140 calories, 0 g fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 0 mg sodium, 40 mg potassium, 36 g carbs (1 g dietary fibre, 0 g sugars), 2 g protein per Â¼ cup. $3.70 per box.
Dad Justin and son Nigel loved this cereal and would eat it regularly, but mom Cathy thought it tasted too much like tapioca pudding, and she had a hard time finding it. Microwave directions would have also made it easier for Dad. The verdict: Buckwheat is not a grain, and has a small amount of fibre. However, it’s a great alternative for anybody who has a wheat or gluten allergy or intolerance, and it’s sodium-free. Boost the fibre content by adding fresh berries.
The Original Red River
150 calories, 2.5 g fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 4 mg sodium, 28 g carbs (6 g fibre, 0 g sugars), 6 g protein per Â¼ cup. $3 per box.
Justin says this one is his favourite, but oldest son Collin thought “it tasted awful even after adding brown sugar,” and Nigel hated the “black lumps.” The verdict: The word “cracked” beside wheat and rye in the ingredients list refers to a processing method that means that this is not whole grain. On the plus side, it is a very high source of fibre and is super-low in sodium, making it a smarter choice than most.
Kraft Cream of Wheat
90 calories, 0 g fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 170 mg sodium, 19 g carbs (1 g fibre, 0 g sugars), 2 g protein per pouch (28 g). $2.79 per box.
This hot cereal was a hit with the Barker family — especially the boys. Collin thought it was great with just a pinch of brown sugar, and Nigel loved it, too. The verdict: Wheat farina is not a whole grain, and although there is zero fat in this breakfast option, it’s also low in protein. Try preparing it with milk instead of water for a more protein-rich meal, and replacing the brown sugar with honey.
Master Choice Original
150 calories, 2.5 g fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 220 mg sodium, 25 g carbs (4 g fibre, 0 g sugars), 5 g protein per packet (38 g). $2.20 per box.
Mom Cathy grew up on this cereal, and loves the taste (and sentimental value). “It’s even better now that it’s microwaveable,” she says. Collin wasn’t fond of the “lumps” and said “it needed something to make it taste better.” The verdict: Although a good source of fibre, this not a whole grain cereal, and the sodium content is high compared to other brands. Don’t start your day with this one too often.
120 calories, 2 g fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 230 g sodium, 22 g carbs (3 g fibre, 0 g sugars), 4 g protein per packet (32 g). $3.29 per box.
Cathy usually has this one in the pantry. Collin said it tasted “blah”, but with a touch of brown sugar and maple syrup Nigel, the youngest, thought “it tasted like Mommy’s homemade oatmeal!” The verdict: This is the only hot cereal we tested that’s actually made from whole grains. Since it’s slightly high in sodium, make sure your other meals throughout the day aren’t too salty. Try sweetening this one with fruit instead of syrup.