The front panels of cereal boxes are plastered with all sorts of health declarations touting weight loss benefits to magic ingredients that’ll change your life. Here’s what to watch out for:
- Fake fruits: The “strawberries” in your Kellogg’s Strawberry Delight Bite Size Mini-Wheats are most likely a mixture of food dyes and gelatin (yuck), according to Liebman. The “raspberries” floating in your bowl are likely to have more salt than raspberry powder. “If you see fruit on the front, you have to read the ingredient list and look for real fruit,” says Liebman.
- Yogurt clusters: Yogurt sounds like it should be healthy, but yogurt coating is essentially oil and sugar and has no health benefits
- “Slimming” cereals: Many cereals, especially those that are “high in fiber,” claim you can drop a pant size if you eat a bowl for every meal. Sure, people who eat more fiber and whole grains tend to weigh less, but most cereals can’t claim to cause weight loss — especially not if most of the “fiber” in them is processed.
- Low in saturated fat: Many cereals claim they’re low in saturated fat and are, therefore, good for your heart. Well, duh. Liebman says any food low in saturated fat can make that claim.
- Calorie counts: Cereals, especially heavier ones with granola, are higher in calories than people realize. Think about how tiny a serving size of a quarter-cup is. Are you really only going to eat that much cereal for breakfast? “Calories really do count,” says Liebman. “People tend to fill up the bowl, eat it, and fill it again. They assume cereal is a low-calorie, healthy food.”