Umm . . .maybe not

By Karen Frye

One of the biggest game-changers in the food industry was when processed food became more desirable than fresh food. For some people, the convenience of breakfast cereals became a priority. I clearly remember Saturday grocery shopping with my mother, staring at all the beautiful cereal boxes, and making my choice. I typically went for the Rice Krispies, a pretty boring selection with all the cereals on the market these days.

If I had only known back then, or even cared, I would have stayed far away from the cereal aisle. Cereal is what I call “dead food.”

Most breakfast cereals are heavily marketed as being healthy — low fat, whole grain, high fiber, all natural. When you look at the ingredients, the first few on the list are refined grains and sugar. These are highly processed foods that are loaded with added sugar. The cereal manufacturers are experts at marketing, especially toward children, using bright colors and popular figures to attract attention. Cereal costs a few cents to make, and usually sells for $4-5 a box. Huge profits for a multi-billion-dollar industry.

The way that cereals are manufactured, a process called extrusion, is probably not what you would ever imagine. The grains are mixed with water, processed into a slurry, and placed in a machine called an extruder. This process denatures and alters the structure of an otherwise healthy grain. The grains are then forced out through a tiny hole at a high temperature and pressure, which shapes them into little o’s or shreds or flakes, also destroying much of the nutrients. Next, the cereal is sprayed with a coating of oil and sugar as a sealant to give it a crunch. Unfortunately, even the cereals sold in natural food stores are made using this same method.

I do agree that breakfast is an important meal, but you should be mindful of what you choose. Children are the largest consumers of breakfast cereal. It would be wise to serve your family something healthier for the first meal of the day. There are options that could become as easy as pouring milk over extruded grains. Hot cereals like oatmeal are a good option, and can be prepared the night before to eat in the morning. Eggs provide much needed protein in the morning. I like to make deviled or boiled eggs, and they are ready to grab on the go.

Retire your cereal bowl forever, or maybe start filling it with fresh seasonal fruit.  PS

Karen Frye is the owner and founder of Natures Own and teaches yoga at the Bikram Yoga Studio.

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