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Know Your Cereals continued...

Of course, all cereals are not created equal, so how can you tell which are the most nutritious? Most cereals are fortified with vitamins and minerals and therefore have some nutritional value. But the American Dietetic Association says you'll get the greatest health benefits from high-fiber cereals that contain a source of good fat, such as nuts. By choosing brands that provide at least 5 grams of fiber per serving, you can get 20% of your daily fiber in one bowl of cereal.

"Snacking on cereal is a great way to get fiber," Tanner says. "The more fiber, the better. It decreases the risk of colon cancer, keeps your intestines clean, reduces constipation and bloating ... and you're just going to feel better."

While whole-grain and bran cereals usually contain the most fiber; don't go by the name alone. "Sometimes there are cereals that sound healthful, but the title is deceiving," Tanner tells WebMD. "Be careful about the fat content." Don't assume a cereal is at the healthy end of the spectrum just because the box says "granola" or "bran." Take the time to check the label for fat, sugar, and fiber content.

"The least healthy cereals are the ones with the most sugar and the least fiber," Tanner says. "Even those are usually fortified with vitamins and minerals. But eating something with protein and fiber will carry you through a lot longer."

Dress Up Your Cereal

If the words "oat bran" don't make your mouth water, try dressing up your cereal with fresh or dried fruits -- a strategy that adds fiber as well as flavor. "For people who aren't so excited about bran, use fruit as a means to make your mouth happy while getting extra nutrients," Tanner says. "Fresh fruits taste wonderful and have a health benefit."

For those with a more demanding sweet tooth, Tanner says there's nothing wrong with "taking something healthful and adding something fun." Mixing a high-fiber cereal with a sweeter cereal and "tossing in a few malt balls for a chocolate fix" is better than not eating the fibrous cereal at all, she adds. The key is to find a combination that you enjoy enough to eat regularly.

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