The Breakfast Cereal Lie and What to Do Instead

( Lower cholesterol, all-natural, and non-GMO — these are just a few of the claims that can easily be found on a trip down the cereal aisle. These promises are used to prompt health-conscious consumers to make buying decisions. But do they actually hold water?

Not really. In fact, the claims made on cereal boxes have nearly zero correlation with their actual nutritional content, according to a Journal of Public Policy & Marketing study. The truth behind the lie is disheartening, but consumers can use this knowledge to make healthier grocery choices.

Don’t Trust Your Cereal Box

Food manufacturers use clever marketing to capture consumer attention, specifically those who are looking for healthy choices. This 2019 study wanted to get the facts straight: What is the truth behind what’s printed on cereal boxes and how do these health claims affect the perception of buyers?

Examining 633 breakfast cereals, with 460 making health claims, researchers found that manufactures were typically highlighting the absence of a negative nutritional value by saying things like “low-cholesterol,” or pointing out something positive by saying the cereal was all “natural” or “pure.”

Despite the attractiveness of these claims to many, they don’t mean much about the health of the cereal. Instead, front-of-box breakfast cereal claims have almost zero correlation with the actual nutritional value of the product.

How Nutritional Lies Influence Buyers

Researchers didn’t only look at the nutritional content of tons of breakfast cereals, they examined how health claims influenced consumers. Their study revealed that even the most untruthful claims had a serious effect on buyer perception. Before making a purchase, buyers were influenced to believe certain things about the health and taste of cereals because of what was said on the front of the box.

Uncovering the Truth About Breakfast Cereal

The good news is that there is a pretty clear-cut way to move past untruthful promises about the health of breakfast cereals, and it doesn’t involve hours of research online. Turn the box over and take a gander at the nutrition label, which is the most accurate representation of the health of a food product.

What should health-conscious buyers look for? There is a lot of information back there, but a good place to start with breakfast cereal is the sugar content. This early morning convenience food is notorious for being packed with sugar, which spikes blood sugar and insulin levels early in the day. Look for products with relatively low content and pay special attention to the added sugar.

While taking a look at the label, check out the fiber content. It’s best to aim for cereals containing 3 grams or more per serving, according to Healthline. Fiber is beneficial to bowel health, aids in weight loss, helps lower cholesterol levels, and can promote normalizing of blood sugar levels.

When in doubt, ask for help. Many stores have registered dieticians on site these days who are happy to help shoppers make healthy choices in the aisles so they can walk away with foods that will help them start their day on the right foot.

~ Here’s to Your Healthy Ascension!

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