Breakfast Cereals

Reporter: Francesca Belperio

Working mother of four Jackie Gemma knows all too well the battle at the supermarket cereal aisle. Trying to get them to eat the healthy stuff which isn't as pretty packaging is pretty hard these days. Like many kids Umberto, Vanessa, Veronica and Sophie have their favourites and there's no question they taste good but just how good are they for their growing bodies?

Some have up to 40 per cent sugar. A chocolate bar has as much sugar but would you give a chocolate bar to your kids for breakfast? To make it easier Dietician Caron Milham has analysed and rated the 200 or so cereals on the market. She says too many have hidden sugars, lots of salt and hardly any fibre. "There's about four nutrients we're looking at, sugar, fat, fibre and salt. They only tell you one good thing, there could be three others that are really bad," says Caron.

We sent Caron to the Gemma household to overhaul their breakfast behaviour and try to make the kids eat a little healthier. "Some of these are better than others but they all didn't make the good list of cereals. If we look at oats for example, many think oats are good for you but these have added sugar. Cornflakes, an old favourite but too low in fibre and Nutri-grain also too high in sugar even though they're low in fat," says Caron. The good news is there are plenty of cereals that are just right. We got our panel of tough judges to rate their taste blindfolded because when you see something that doesn't look very good you don't really want to eat it.

First one of Caron's top picks were Gluten free rice puffs. Some said they'd like that cereal if we added some extra sweetness whether it came from fruit or sugar so that's reassuring. Not so reassuring however, was the super healthy Crunchola. Even though it was sweetened, the texture is what the children didn't like. But not all was lost. A family favourite with a twist made the grade in health and taste.

Christopher Zinn is from consumer group Choice. It also surveyed a host of cereals and the results were disappointing. "If you look at the top ten selling cereals Weetbix is the top and that's pretty good, that gets our tick generally and unfortunately the others do not," says Christopher. Now they're lobbying the government to change food labelling laws to stop companies from falsely advertising products as healthy. "Just because it says healthy, natural or fresh on it, doesn't necessarily mean it's any of those things," says Christopher.

Caron's cereal survey results are broken down into three categories, gold, silver and bronze. The gold are cream of the crop, less than 5 per cent fat and sugar less than 400mg of sodium per 100 grams and more than 8 grams of fibre per 100 grams. Those that make the grade include Weet-bix, Sultana Bran, Rice Puffs and Shredded Wheat.

Silver is a little bit higher in fat and sugar and lower in fibre and Bronze is the minimum 15 per cent sugar, no more, less than 10 per cent fat, more than 6 grams of fibre per 100grams. They include a range of mueslis and even some generic brands for the budget conscious.

But if you still don't think your kids will bite into it then Caron suggests weaning them off the sugary cereals slowly. Adding some fruit is a good start. "Mix the cereals together if you don't' like them on your own and if you need to have a bit of sugar then slowly wean yourself back," suggests Caron.

Caron's top ten cereals are in no particular order and are based on a variety of brands, types, familiarity, health and price:

· Sanitarium Weet-Bix Original

· Uncle Tobys Shredded Wheat, Vita Brits and Vita Brits Weeties

· Coles Organic Instant Oats

· Freedom Foods Hi-Lite Cereal with Wholegrains & Rice Flakes with Psyllium Husks

· Kelloggs Sultana Bran

· Morning Sun Natural Style Fruit Muesli

· Nu-Vit Natural Low Fat Muesli

For the full list of gold, silver and bronze cereals Caron's book:

Australian Healthy shopping Guide 2009" is available at all major book stores or via the website:

Choice Cereal Review Results:

· Children's range

· Sanitarium Weet-Bix Kids

· Uncle Tobys VitaBrits Weeties

Family cereals:

· Abundant Earth Organic Puffed Corn, Puffed Rice and Puffed Millet

· Freedom Foods Free from Gluten Rice Puffs with Psyllium

· Generic wheat biscuits

· Kellog's Wholegrain Mini-Wheats 5 Grains

· Sanitarium Puffed Wheat and Weet-Bix

· Uncle Tobys Shredded Wheat