What could be easier and healthier than a bowl of whole grain, low-sugar (less than 5 grams per serving) cereal with skim milk? Slice a banana over it and you’ve got a well-rounded breakfast that can power you through the morning. But day after day (and bowl after bowl), the idea of the same old cereal gets a little soggy. So, to jazz up your old reliable cereal plus low-fat milk combo, we’ve poured out a few new breakfast options for you to crunch on.
Five Tasty Ways to Jazz Up Cereal
Mix it up.
Does low-sugar cereal lack flavor for your discriminating taste buds? Jazz it up by mixing it with one that has a slightly higher sugar content (such as 6-8 grams per serving). Equal parts Cheerios and Honey Nut Cheerios, for example, tastes lightly sweet but still serves up less sugar than just the Honey Nut version alone. For harried mornings, make the mix ahead and store several days’ worth of servings in an airtight container.
Upgrade to cereal and milk 2.0.
Who says the milk has to pour from a carton? Replace the milk with low-fat yogurt; it provides a great calcium-rich substitute to milk. Even better, using yogurt makes it easier to enjoy cereal away from home. Simply pack a single-serve cup with a zip-top bag of cereal to add as a mix-in. Or, for a tasty make-ahead variation, mix a 6 oz container of vanilla yogurt with 1 cup raw oats, ½ cup steel cut oats, ½ cup orange juice and a small chopped apple, then stir together and let sit overnight. In the morning, dish out a serving, and top with two tablespoons of dried fruit and slivered almonds.
Have it your way.
If variety is what strikes your fancy, stock a “cereal bar” with several toppings that you can easily pull out to jazz up cereal during busy mornings. Try using the kind of divided dish usually used for serving appetizers to dole out a couple of types of cut fresh fruit, one or two types of chopped nuts, dried fruit, and a shaker of cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice. Then, top your cereal the way you like it!
Fill’er up with fruit.
When you’ve had your fill of bananas sliced over cereal, try jazzing up your low-sugar picks with other naturally sweet fruit you may not have considered. Exotic fruits like mango or papaya diced into cereal are great “think outside-the-bowl” toppings. Better yet, tickle your taste buds with exciting combinations like blackberry and kiwi, for example. You could even channel a Hawaiian vacation right at the breakfast table with chopped pineapple and a teaspoon each of unsweetened coconut and crushed Macadamia nuts. Of course, any fruit, especially those fresh and in season, make perfect cereal toppers. And don’t neglect pantry staples like dried cranberries, cherries, and blueberries. If you don’t have time to get to the store, dried fruits make it easy to add extra nutrition as well as jazz up your cereal.
Add a little heat.
Nothing takes the chill off a crisp fall day better than a steaming bowl of oatmeal. But it’s best to pass on the individual packets of flavored instant cereals; most contain added sugar and sodium. Instead, use their flavor cues to jazz up your own plain hot cereal. Tempt yourself with real strawberries and cream: chunks of fresh berries and a drizzle of fat-free half-and-half. Or, try a spin on Bananas Foster: stir a teaspoon of caramel sundae sauce and half of a sliced banana into your oatmeal during the last few minutes of cooking.
The Bottom Line
Cereal is a great choice for breakfast, but to keep up your motivation to eat a healthy daybreak meal, jazz up your familiar favorites with a few fresh ideas and new flavors.
Beth Sumrell Ehrensberger is a Registered Dietitian and holds a Master Degree in Public Health. An experienced nutrition counselor, writer and public speaker, Beth specializes in translating complex nutrition information into practical concepts. Beth was awarded a Nutrition Communications Fellowship to the National Cancer Institute, and has worked on the internationally recognized Nutrition Action Healthletter of the Center for Science in the Public Interest.