Here are some shopping tips for buying breads and cereals:
- Stick with whole-grain varieties, including whole wheat, multigrain, rye, millet, oat bran, oat, and cracked wheat. (This goes for all types of bread: sliced bread, pita, bagels, English muffins, crackers, and so on.)
- Although “wheat” bread might sound just as healthy as “whole-wheat” bread, don't be fooled; it's merely a blend of white and whole-wheat flour. A product labeled “whole-wheat” must be made from 100 percent whole-wheat flour.
- Check the label and choose breads with at least 2 grams of fiber per slice.
- If you're looking to save calories, try the whole-wheat, reduced-calorie bread (approximately 40 calories per slice with 2 grams of fiber).
- Don't forget to check the expiration date on the label.
- Take advantage of the fiber that some cereals pack in, and choose varieties that have at least 2 grams of fiber per serving. You can usually (not always) get a sense of whether a cereal has fiber from the name on the box (Bran Flakes, All-Bran, 100% Bran, Raisin Bran, Fiber-One, Shredded Wheat, and Corn Bran).
- Some cereals pack in more sugar and salt than most people realize. Check the “Total Carbohydrates” against the “Sugars” (on the nutrition label) to make sure sugar is not a main ingredient. In fact, opt for the brands that report 6 grams of sugar or less per serving. If your kids (or spouse) insist on the sugary brand, mix it with half a bowl of a healthier look-alike (for instance, half Frosted Flakes and half Bran Flakes).
- Check the serving size. Some of the denser, heavier cereals only allot a miniscule amount for one serving. Take this into consideration if you plan to eat a normal-size bowl (and you're watching your weight). Remember, double the serving size means double the calories.
- Don't forget to throw some hot cereal into your cart. Whether you opt for the instant or the kind that requires cooking, stick with unsweetened varieties of oatmeal, grits, cream of rice, and cream of wheat. You can sweeten them with some of the fresh fruit you bought in the produce section.
- Most cereals are low in fat with the exception of granola and others that add nuts, seeds, coconut, and oils. Read the label and choose cereals with no more than 2 grams of fat per serving.
- Read the list of ingredients on your cereal box and make sure that wheat, rye, corn, or oats are listed first. Items are listed in the order of quantity.
Pasta, Rice, and More
Pasta is one of those American staple foods that everyone seems to enjoy. What's more, pasta is high in complex carbohydrates, easy to make, and inexpensive. Don't stop at the box of spaghetti; try the elbow macaroni, ziti, rigatoni, penne, fusilli, orzo, shells, bow ties, and lasagna noodles. If your supermarket has any whole-grain varieties, throw them in your basket; they're a great source of fiber.
Rice is another excellent source of complex carbohydrates and tends to be a popular standard in many homes. The most nutritious is brown rice, with a bit more fiber than the white varieties. Next in the nutrition line-up is polished white rice, and last is the instant white rice, with the fewest nutrients of all.
Try some of the not-so-common grains. Pile your cart with whole-grain couscous, barley, buckwheat, bulgur, kasha, millet, polenta, wheat berries, and cracked wheat. They are all brimming with complex carbohydrates—so jazz up your dinners and impress your family!