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Not all breakfasts created equal

There are many things to consider when picking out a cereal

I hate being a killjoy, but the other night - when asked whether Cheerios were a healthy breakfast option - I killed one man's breakfast dreams for life. My response to his innocent question? "They are about as nutritionally sound as cardboard."

When I saw his dejected look, though, I quickly added, "OK, maybe they are one step up from cardboard," in hopes of making him feel a little better.

There are quite a few people out there who think they are starting the day out right with their favourite bowl of cereal, when really they are doing quite the opposite.

Cereal is a manufactured food, and some cereals have better ingredients in them than others.

While I believe we should be steering away from foods that are already made for us (and instead reaching for foods that we make and create ourselves), I understand a bowl of cereal in the morning is easy - and sometimes we just need easy!

To make your breakfast easy and healthy, here are some things to look for when buying cereal.

First off, find out what is inside that box - and I'm not talking about the free toy.

Read the ingredients list on the side of the box. Whatever is listed first will be the main ingredient.

However, if high-fructose corn syrup, glucose, agave, hydrogenated oils, artificial colours or dye, chemical preservatives or sugar-substitutes are listed in any of the ingredients, put the box down and step away.

Instead, look for ingredients that read closer to how ol' Mother Nature intended food to look like, such as whole grains, millet, rice, oats, quinoa, nuts, seeds, real fruit, barley, amaranth, buckwheat, kamut, rye, spelt, molasses and honey.

Second, read the sugar grams.

For every four grams listed, you are ingesting one teaspoon of sugar, and currently we are eating on average 30 teaspoons of sugar a day (WHO).

The recommended daily intake is six teaspoons, so if your box lists more than one and a half teaspoons (five grams) of sugar per serving, put the box down and step away.

Next, check out the fibre grams.

Fibre is a much-needed nutrient for our bodies.

Not only does it help keep us regular, but it also helps to balance our blood sugars, and a higher fibre cereal will also fill you up faster. If your box has less than five grams of fibre per serving, put the box down and step away.

Now, how about what is not written on the box. I'm talking about GMOs (genetically modified organisms).

There is data coming out now that shows GMO foods can physically change the cells within the human body (

This is scary stuff and we, as consumers, need to be aware of what is genetically modified so we can best judge whether we want to feed it to our family.

Most of the larger companies out there use GMO crops (currently, there are only a few non-GMO certified brands in Canada).

However, for more variety, you can head across the line to the United States and to Trader Joe's for a whole aisle of GMO-free cereals.

What locally available cereals are GMO-free or organic?

Nature's Path, Alpen, Holy Crap and Skinny B cereal brands, Barbara's, Arrowhead Mills, Bakery on Main, Bare Naked, Bob's Red Mill, Weetabix, Mike & Ike's, Dorset, Boring Porridge, Gather, Granola King, Ruth's and Gourmet Granola and organic oats are a few.

Kashi (much to my dismay) was recently busted using GMO soy in its products and, since April, Kellogg's has been trying desperately to get itself out of this mess.

They now have seven of their products verified as GMO-free (Autumn Wheat, Cinnamon Harvest, Island Vanilla, Strawberry Fields, 7 Whole Grain Flakes, 7 Whole Grain Puffs and 7 Whole Grain Pilaf). Unfortunately, it might be a little to late for Kashi/Kellogg's, as a lot of Kashi's hard-core fans now feel deceived and are not going back.

What cereal do I eat? Currently it's Nature's Path Blueberry Cinnamon Flax. However, my biggest cereal crush is oatmeal.

I eat it hot, I eat it cold (overnight oats, Google it, they are amazing), I eat it for breakfast, for brunch, for lunch and, yes, I've even had it for dinner.

I buy steel-cut, or large flake oats, and then add my own spices, nuts, flax or chia seeds and fruit.

If I feel I need some extra protein, I will also stir in a scoop of vanilla protein powder or half a cup of zero per cent Greek-style yogurt.

And this, my friend, beats out Cheerios any day of the week.

P.J. Wren is a writer and personal trainer in the Delta area. She can be reached at www.gofitgals. com.