I really do believe that most cereals are, unfortunately, junky. They’re high in carbohydrates, sugar, low in protein and often lacking nutrition. If it has marshmallows in it, it’s not good for you, even if it is made with “whole grains.” Even cereals with healthy-sounding names don’t quite make the mark. Cereal can be fast, easy and inexpensive. With such an abundance of choices, it can be hard to find ones truly worth it.
A truly healthy cereal for me is one that is 100 percent whole grain
Cold cereals are not my personal favorite because I find that I can easily eat a whole box. When you can eat more than one portion so easily, it can easily become a trigger food. It’s for this reason that I personally stick to whole and natural grains as hot or cold cereals such as steel cut or rolled oats, quinoa, puffed quinoa or millet. I tend to make a big batch or prep individual servings on a Sunday and then eat cold or heat in the microwave for a fast morning breakfast.
When navigating the aisle for a better cereal, focus on sugar, fiber, whole grains and portion.
- Sugar: I like to limit sugar to less than 10g per serving to satisfy a sweet tooth while avoiding a sugar crash
- Fiber: Look for at least 3 grams of fiber per serving. Ideally, one that’s 4-5 grams per serving. Fiber helps aid digestion, keeps you feeling full longer, may reduce cholesterol levels and help control blood sugar spikes. I also prefer when fiber comes from whole grains/bran rather than added fibers like inulin or chicory root, which can be very gassy for some people but tend to be common among “high fiber” and “healthy” cereals.
- Read the ingredients: The first ingredient should be a type of whole grain and should read whole wheat, whole oats, whole barley, etc. Look for a reasonably short and recognizable list of ingredients devoid of processed ingredients and artificial sweeteners and preservatives like BHT.
- Protein: Look for brands with 5 grams or more of protein per serving to help curb overeating. If your cereal has less, add cow’s milk, unsweetened soy milk, unsweetened almond milk, 2 percent yogurt, or 2 tablespoons or chopped nuts for an extra protein boost.
- Portions: The serving listed on the box can be a lot less than we’re actually pouring from the box. If the serving size is wimpy, try to bulk up the portion with chopped nuts or fruit to make breakfast more filling.
Cereals Worth Trying
- Ezekiel’s Golden Flax cereal: one of the least processed cereals out there made with easy to digest sprouted wheat or sprouted lentils with extra natural source of protein ½ c serving 190 calories 8g protein, 6g fiber, 0g sugar
- Erewhon Quinoa and Chia, Uncle Sam Original, original Cheerios, shredded wheat, Arrowhead Mills Kamut Flakes are all made with 100 percent whole grains.
- Steel cut or rolled oats, quinoa, millet
- Cheerios or Trader Joe's O’s: low in sugar, made with whole grain oats and fortified w Fe.
- Barbara’s Original high fiber cereal or Kellogg’s All Bran: for high fiber, low sugar
- Kellogg’s Unfrosted mini wheats or Post shredded wheat: made with whole grains, high fiber, virtually sugar free
- Kashi Go Lean: 10g fiber but also a surprising 13g of protein
- Special K multigrain oats: for when you want something sweet but still only 8g sugar per serving
Amanda Bontempo, MS RD CSO CDN