Posts Tagged ‘healthy breakfast foods’

Go Oats!

September 13, 2014 2 comments

Breakfast eaters are 30% less likely to develop obesity or insulin resistance compared to breakfast skippers.

Oatmeal is a favorite breakfast staple in my home and as a registered dietitian I recommend it to my patients on a regular basis. Not only does this great grain provide soluble fiber to lower cholesterol, it has also been found to reduce post-meal hunger for up to four hours! That’s great news for those of us who get hungry soon after eating breakfast. One study found that people who ate oatmeal were less hungry later than those who ate cold cereal. Both groups were served the same number of calories, but it’s likely that the oatmeal with soluble fiber and more protein than the other cereal helped stave off the morning munchies.

With so many choices lining the cereal aisles, what do you need to look for when making a healthy choice? Whether you select slow cooked or instant, plain or flavored, there’s something to satisfy everyone’s taste buds, nutrition goals and even match one’s morning schedule (some of us would rather not spend 20-30 minutes slow cooking oats on a busy work morning). Check out these things when reading food labels.


First look for the number of calories per serving. Most plain oatmeal with a standard one cup cooked serving size has 150 calories. Flavored oatmeal in packets or single-serve microwavable cups run the gamut for calories ranging from as low as 100 calories to a high 260 calories per serving.


In general oatmeal is not high in sodium unlike dry cereals that can contain upwards of 300 milligrams! In fact old fashioned oats have no sodium, while a packet of instant oats can have between 240-350 milligrams. It’s ideal to get the lowest amount of sodium possible, less than 100 milligrams per serving, especially if your medical needs require that you keep your sodium count low as part of a healthy eating plan. Generally people with high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes need to keep sodium below 1,500 milligrams a day. Speak with your registered dietitian to find out how much daily sodium you need.

Total Carbohydrates

Further down the list of nutrients are total carbs and sugars. If you are trying to be carb-conscious you will notice that whether you prefer plain oats or flavored, there are about 30 grams of carbs per serving. The exception is some of the “new” single serve cups (ex. Quaker® Real Medleys) that contain closer to 50 grams of carbs (and 260 calories). If you have diabetes you may need to watch carbs more closely. A registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator can work with you to match carbs for your personal meal plan to help manage your blood sugars.


  • Dietary Fiber: Aim for at least three grams total dietary fiber per serving. This is fairly standard however some cereals can have as much as six grams of fiber. That’s more fiber bang for your buck and we know that fiber helps with fullness- another great reason to choose oatmeal as a breakfast of champions!
  • Soluble Fiber: If you are trying to lower your LDL “bad” cholesterol by as much as three to seven percent, it takes three grams of soluble fiber to clinically do that. Slow-cooked oats have a clear advantage over the instant kind. You need 1 ½ cups slow- cooked oats (equal to 3/4 cup dry) compared to three packets of instant to reach this soluble fiber goal. That’s a big bowl of oats! The downside to slow-cooked oatmeal is it takes longer to cook and if you’re like me, trying to get out the door in the morning, it’s far more convenient to cook the instant for 1 ½ minutes in the microwave. Tip: if you plan ahead you can cook some the night before in a crock pot so it’s ready to eat when you wake up.


Sugar is an important component on labels of all cereals and oatmeal is no exception. If the sugars exceed eight grams per serving put the box back on the shelf! You will not find more than one gram of sugar in slow-cooked oats. The 100 calorie packets of OatFit by Better Oats® also has zero grams of sugar as well. My personal favorite is Quaker® Weight Control Oatmeal with one gram of sugar. The above mentioned flavored cereals are sweetened with artificial sugars keeping the sugar count low. Quaker® Lower Sugar flavored oatmeal has 4 grams of sugar and Quaker® Higher Fiber Oatmeal has seven grams of sugar. Most packets of flavored oats contain at least nine grams of sugar per packet. That’s one whole teaspoon worth!

Whether you go plain or flavored, there’s no such thing as a “boring” bowl of oats. If you want to “spice” it up here are some ideas for delicious mix-ins:

  • Fresh or frozen mixed berries
  • Chopped walnuts and sliced bananas
  • Raisins or dried cranberries and sunflower seeds
  • Sliced almonds and chopped dried apricots
  • Diced pear and ground cinnamon
  • Chopped dates and pecans

I couldn’t properly end this blog on my favorite breakfast food without sharing what I like to mix in. For crunch and texture I add about a teaspoon of nuts, either chopped pecans or walnuts and for a natural sweet flavor I throw in a handful of mixed berries. That’s what I call a great bowl of oatmeal! It leaves my taste buds buzzing and I’m satiated all morning.

How do you like your oatmeal? Please share your comments.

Eating Well in College

Eating healthfully at college may seem like an impossible task but with the right knowledge and resources it can be done. Often times, students don’t focus on their diet with all the excitement that goes with leaving home for college and gaining new independence.

One of the things you can avoid is the dreaded “Freshman 15.” It’s pretty common for students to pack on pounds, especially that first year. Like a kid in a candy store, you are introduced to large amounts of ready-to-eat food available 24 hours a day. To avoid weight gain, try these tips:

  1. Put yourself on a schedule. Eating every 3-5 hours during the day makes it easier to avoid the out-of-control eating when hunger hits.
  2. Watch the grazing. Be sure to eat your balanced meals and planned snacks so the calories are better controlled.
  3. Include breakfast daily. Eat within an hour of waking to boost your metabolism and help control indulging late in the day. (Note: Breakfast recipes from Cooper Clinic)
  4. Be aware of non-hunger cues that make you want to eat. Food can be a great comfort for emotions and used for: coping, celebrating, relaxing, procrastinating and a part of socializing. Make sure you sit down and focus on eating rather than eating while doing other tasks. Mindless eating can lead to extra calories.
  5. Pay attention to the calories in alcohol which can lead to weight gain. It’s not only the empty calories from alcohol but also the munchies that often accompany drinking contribute to weight gain. Never drink on an empty stomach alternate each caloric beverage with water or seltzer and dilute the drink with water. Don’t forget, it’s always acceptable to decline a drink.

You can learn more about nutrition to make smarter choices to fuel your body for your college experience. Before you leave home, visit a nutrition expert at Cooper Clinic to learn the nutrition basics. Our Registered Dietitian Nutritionists can arm you with tools to balance your meals and snacks, choose appropriate portions, navigate social eating situations and make it easy to enjoy a healthy lifestyle during college and for years to come.

For more information about nutrition consultations at Cooper Clinic, click here or call 972-560-2655.

Post provided by Colleen Loveland, MS, RDN, LD, CDE

Healthy Breakfast: What is the Best Cereal?

March 15, 2013 8 comments

Nearly half of Americans eat cereal for breakfast. There are so many choices available that it can be overwhelming, but finding healthier cereals doesn’t have to be. Cereal is a great way to start the day with wholegrain carbohydrates and fiber. Wholegrains contain protective antioxidants and may reduce risk of heart disease, diabetes and certain types of cancer.

When it comes to choosing cereal, don’t judge it by the front of the box, which often boasts catchy and misleading claims. Flip it over for the Nutrition Facts and Ingredient List. Here are some simple guidelines (note that there are exceptions to these guidelines):

Serving Size: This is the amount in one serving. If you eat either more or less than the listed serving, adjust the numbers accordingly.

  • Calories: 200 calories less or per serving
  • Fiber: 5 grams of fiber or more per serving
  • Sugars: 8 grams of sugar or less per serving

Calories: A general rule of thumb for breakfast calories is about of 300-400 for the meal. Your body needs the fuel in the morning to get you going. When you add up cereal with fat-free or low fat milk and ½- 1 cup of fruit, you can meet this block of calories. Beware of denser heavier cereals, like granola, that contain more calories than you think. One cup can have more than 400 calories!

Fiber: Cereals made with wholegrains can be high in fiber which helps fill you up.  The bottom line in narrowing down your cereal choices is honing in on its fiber content. Aim for 5 grams (g) or higher with exception to Whole Grain Cheerios. Though it is lower in fiber, with 3 g per serving, Cheerios are a good source of the soluble type fiber which can help lower cholesterol. Kellogg’s Cinnamon Oat Crunch and Kashi Heart to Heart are even higher in fiber than Cheerios. I usually recommend these for the higher soluble fiber count. The daily recommendation for fiber is between 21-38 g of fiber per day, based on your age and gender.

Sugars: These days people are reading labels for sugar, with less regard for calories. I would like to clarify that sugar is not as important as fiber content and wholegrains listed on the Ingredient List. As a general rule, look for 8 g or less sugar per serving, however some cereals qualify as healthy even when they have even as much as 13 g of sugar per serving. Examples are Kashi Go Lean Crunch and Fiber One Caramel Delight.

Ingredient List:

  • The first or second ingredients should be whole grain, such as “whole wheat flour,” “wholegrain wheat,” “whole grain oats”, or “bran.” If the word “whole” does not appear in front of the grain than it’s probably refined, as in “wheat,” “rice,” or “rice flour.” Processed grains are refined and not whole grains. The recommendation is that your intake of grains should come from wholegrains, but more than half is optimal. Note that even if the front of the box says “made with wholegrains,” the cereal may contain a minimal amount.
  • Fake vs. Real Fruit: the strawberries or raspberries in cereals may be made from powder, gelatin and food dyes and don’t qualify as real fruit. Read the ingredient list to verify that what you’re getting is real, like raisins in Raisin Bran.
  • Yogurt Clusters: don’t be fooled by the little yogurt clusters. They contain a coating of sugar and oil and don’t qualify as a healthy yogurt, as the name implies.

Here’s a list of my favorite cereal picks:

Fiber One Honey ClustersGeneral Mills Fiber One Honey Clusters

Serving Size: 1 cup; Calories: 160; Fiber: 13 g; Sugars: 6 g



Fiber One 80Fiber One 80 Calories

Serving Size: ¾ cup; Calories: 80; Fiber: 10 g; Sugars: 3 g



Kashi Go LeanKashi Go Lean

Serving Size: 1 cup; Calories: 140; Fiber: 10 g; Sugars: 6 g



Kellogg's Fiber PlusKellogg’s Fiber Plus Cinnamon Oat Crunch

Serving Size: ¾ cup; Calories: 110; Fiber: 9 g; Sugars: 8 g



Kashi Heart to HeartKashi Heart to Heart

Serving Size: ¾ cup; Calories: 120 g; Fiber: 5 g; Sugars: 5 g


cereal-caramel-delightFiber One Caramel Delight
Serving Size: 1 cup; Calories: 180; Fiber: 9 g; Sugars: 10 g

Cereal_All Bran BudsGeneral Mills All Bran Buds
Serving Size: 1/3 cup; Calories: 70; Fiber: 13 g; Sugars: 8 g


cereal_multigrain_cheeriosMulti Grain Cheerios
Serving Size: 1 cup; Calories: 110; Fiber: 3 g; Sugars: 6 g

cereal_Kashi go lean crsipKashi Go Lean Crisp Toasted Berry Crumble
Serving Size: ¾ cup; Calories: 180; Fiber: 8 g; Sugars: 10 g

Who says cereal is just for breakfast? You can also enjoy it as a great topping for fat-free or low fat yogurt. Top it with some fresh or frozen fruit, such as berries, for a sweet kick. Try out different cereals and pick the one that satisfies your taste buds.