10 of the Best and Worst Cereals


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
  :  194 comments   :  878,832 Views

At some point, you've probably heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. While some people question this recommendation, others have quick and healthy breakfast favorites they regularly include at the beginning of their day, whether it's a warm bowl of oatmeal in winter or refreshing summer choices like fruit smoothies, yogurt or cold cereal.

According to Cereal F.A.C.T.S. (Food Advertising to Children and Teens Score), cereal companies annually spend millions of marketing dollars targeting children. They estimate that every year, the average preschooler will see over 600 cereal ads with colorful character mascots. Unfortunately, many of the cereals with the lowest Nutrition Profiling Index (NPI) scores have the highest marketing rate.
With all the food-labeling loopholes, selecting a healthy cereal can be tricky. Ignore the catchy claims on the front of the box and go straight to the nutrition facts label instead. Here's what to look for:
  • Remember the "Rule of Fives": Do your best to choose cereals with at least five grams of fiber and less than five grams of sugar per serving.
  • Look for each serving to contain at least three grams of protein.
  • Read the ingredients list. The top ingredients should be whole wheat or wheat bran—not just wheat. These whole grains are naturally low in fat and high in fiber.
  • Avoid cereals that list hydrogenated oils, chemical preservatives and artificial dyes or colors as ingredients—these have no place in a healthy diet!

10 of the Healthiest Cold Cereals to Keep in Your Pantry

Kashi Pilaf Original: With 44 grams of whole grains in each serving, this versatile pilaf is a nutritious foundation for any meal, from breakfast to afternoon snack.
170 calories, 2.5 grams of fat, 0 grams of sugar, 6 grams of protein, 5 grams of fiber, 0 milligrams of sodium

Grape-Nuts: This 100 percent whole-grain cereal is delicious alone, with yogurt or sprinkled with berries for natural sweetness. The high fiber content will keep you feeling full until lunchtime.
210 calories, 1 gram of fat, 5 grams of sugar, 6 grams of protein, 7 grams of fiber, 270 milligrams of sodium

Nutritious Living Hi Lo 100% Natural Cereal - Original: Fuel up for the day with this all-natural cereal that's packed with protein and fiber, but extremely low in sugar and fat.
90 calories, 1 gram of fat, 3 grams of sugar, 12 grams of protein, 6 grams of fiber, 95 milligrams of sodium

Post Spoon-Size Shredded Wheat: With minimal processing, equally generous amounts of protein and fiber and a low sugar content, you can't go wrong with this whole-grain cereal.
170 calories, 1 gram of fat, 0 grams of sugar, 6 grams of protein, 6 grams of fiber, 0 milligrams of sodium
Uncle Sam Cereal (original)One of the higher-fiber cereals you'll find, it's also extremely low in sugar and has enough protein to stave off mid-morning cravings.
210 calories, 6 grams of fat, 1 gram of sugar, 9 grams of protein, 10 grams of fiber, 140 milligrams of sodium

Barbara's Shredded Wheat: Wheat berries are the star of this sweet, satisfying and sugar-free breakfast.
140 calories, 1 gram of fat, 0 grams of sugar, 4 grams of protein, 5 grams of fiber, 0 milligrams of sodium

General Mills Wheat Chex: Made from 100 percent whole grain, this diet-friendly cereal is also a good source of iron and calcium.
160 calories, 1 gram of fat, 5 grams of sugar, 5 grams of protein, 6 grams of fiber, 270 milligrams of sodium

Food for Life Almond Sprouted Whole Grain Cereal: This vegan and yeast-free cereal starts your day with a generous dose of fiber and protein.
200 calories, 3 grams of fat, <1 gram of sugar, 8 grams of protein, 6 grams of fiber, 190 milligrams of sodium

Mom's Best Toasted Wheat-Fuls: All shredded wheat, all day long. Plus, it has less than one and a half teaspoons of sugar and is a good source of iron.
200 calories, 1 gram of fat, 0 grams of sugar, 6 grams of protein, 7 grams of fiber, 10 milligrams of sodium

Kay's Naturals Protein Cereal - Honey Almond: Although one gram shy of the "five fiber" rule, it's packed with protein and low in sugar, making it a great way to power up for the day.
120 calories, 1.5 grams of fat, 3 grams of sugar, 12 grams of protein, 4 grams of fiber, 160 milligrams of sodium

10 Unhealthy Cereals to Avoid

General Mills Reese's Puffs: The name alone should clue you in on the lack of health benefits in this candy-inspired "cereal," which is packed with artificial colors and flavors.
120 calories, 3 grams of fat, 9 grams of sugar, 2 grams of protein, 1 gram of fiber, 160 milligrams of sodium

Quaker Oats Cap'n Crunch's OOPS! All Berries: They may have berries in the name, but more than 42 percent of this cereal's calories come from added sugars.
130 calories, 1.5 grams of fat, 14 grams of sugar, 1 gram of protein, <1 gram of fiber, 200 milligrams of sodium

General Mills Cinnamon Toast Crunch: Don't be fooled by the whole-grain wheat and boasts of vitamins and minerals--this kid favorite has nine grams of sugar and also contains the controversial preservative BHT.
130 calories, 3 grams of fat, 9 grams of sugar, 1 gram of protein, 0 grams of fiber, 180 milligrams of sodium

Kellogg's Corn Pops: The name might sound healthy enough, but this lightly sweetened cereal contains no fiber at all and barely any protein.
120 calories, 0 grams of fat, 9 grams of sugar, 1 gram of protein, <1 gram of fiber, 105 milligrams of sodium

Kellogg's Smorz: As you would expect, this is more of a dessert than a cereal. It's comprised of more than 43 percent sugar and little to no fiber or protein.
120 calories, 2 grams of fat, 13 grams of sugar, 1 gram of protein, <1 gram of fiber, 135 milligrams of sodium

General Mills Lucky CharmsThe marshmallows, sugars, artificial colors and artificial flavors counteract any health benefits of the whole grain.
110 calories, 1 gram of fat, 10 grams of sugar, 2 grams of protein, 2 grams of fiber, 170 milligrams of sodium

General Mills Cocoa Puffs: With sugar comprising 40 percent of its calories, it shouldn't be a surprise that this chocolatey cereal earns a spot on the "worst" list. 
100 calories, 1.5 grams of fat, 9 grams of sugar, 2 grams of protein, 1 gram of fiber, 100 milligrams of sodium

Kellogg's Froot Loops: Despite the name, this sugar-packed cereal offers none of the health benefits of actual fruit. It gets 44 percent of its calories from sugar, and has little to no fiber or protein.
110 calories, 1 gram of fat, 10 grams of sugar, 2 grams of protein, 3 grams of fiber, 150 milligrams of sodium

Kellogg's Apple Jacks: Like their Froot Loops cousin, Apple Jacks have little to no nutritional value, and also get 44 percent of their calories from added sugar. Other red flags include artificial colors, flavors, BHT and hydrogenated oils.
110 calories, 1 gram of fat, 10 grams of sugar, 2 grams of protein, 3 grams of fiber, 150 milligrams of sodium

Kellogg's Honey Smacks: With a whopping 20 grams of sugar per serving, this sinful cereal is more than half sugar, and also contains hydrogenated oils and BHT.
110 calories, <1 gram of fat, 16 grams of sugar, 1 gram of protein, 1 gram of fiber, 40 milligrams of sodium

Do you regularly eat cereal for breakfast or as an evening snack? What are your favorite healthy cereal choices?

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  • 144
    on my dieticians's advice...its Bran Buds all the way and not just sprinkled over my oatmeal but as a garnish with Greek Yogurt as an evening snack but wonderful as this is , I still measure out a proper serving.
    - 3/6/2015   3:20:45 PM
  • 143
    I'm transitioning to a diet that is as gluten-free as possible (not celiac, but I am sensitive and notice a definite difference eating wheat vs. not). My staple breakfast is a hot cereal:
    Plain Arrowhead Mills oat-quinoa instant hot cereal with a tbsp of mixed chia and flax seeds, and a tsp each of coconut oil and raw honey.

    This combo gets me through the morning at work every day. I think I'll stick with it! - 9/5/2014   12:27:58 PM
    My gastroenterologist told me to eat either Fiber One or Kashi Original. That isn't even on your list but it is loaded with fiber. - 9/1/2014   7:58:27 AM
  • 141
    ...so disappointed to see the Special K cereals on the WORST list!! I LOVE those cereals! :( :( Guess I have to look for a new favorite cereal? *Siiiiiiigh!* - 9/1/2014   1:33:15 AM
  • 140
    JBUUTY1, I love "Mom's Best" cereals! I eat the raisin bran every morning and the other cereals I've tried are excellent as well. :) - 8/26/2014   8:33:01 PM
  • 139
    well not many choices for the diabetic maybe the shredded wheat in my case since it has no salt. I think I will stick with my oatmeal, occasional shredded wheat, Not too sure about fiber one salt may be in it too! Why in the world are companies placing so MUCH salt in our food? One claim it they said that there cereal are healthy. NOT. But from what I have seem they are not. They are pushing these very cereals at our kids. WOW what an eye opener!!!!!!! - 7/29/2014   11:06:01 AM
  • 138
    Mmmmm...GMOs. (Not really. That was sarcasm.) I wouldn't eat any of those cereals if you paid me. I wish the folks at Spark People would stop pushing the genetically engineered foods. Include some of the popular organic foods in these lists. They aren't a hard to find as they used to be! - 7/7/2014   11:37:16 AM
  • 137
    Haha!!! I eat at least 5 out of the 10 best....by hubby eats ALL on the worst list, lol - 7/7/2014   8:11:01 AM
  • 136
    I do have a question though. What would be the 10 healthiest cereals for those who have problems with wheat or gluten? - 6/10/2014   2:24:49 AM
  • 135
    The only one on the top 10 I like is the cherrios. In my opinion shreaded wheat looks, feels and tastes like it is food for horses. I mean it even looks like tiny hay bales. I prefer oatmeal with apples chunks, raisins, dates, strawberries, or blueberries, and a little almond milk. Or granoly, fruit and yogart. maybe some nuts.
    And I sometimes eat a poached egg and a slice of bacon, a biscuit, and orange juice. Personally I don't like the Idea of chemicals in my food, or genetically modified food. I would prefer it as natural to the way God intended it to be as possible. I really think that is the healthiest. - 6/10/2014   2:22:46 AM
  • 134
    Where do cereals like Life or Chex fall into this? Not the best/not the worst? Is Total any good? What about for the Gluten Frees? - 5/20/2014   9:37:24 AM
    Could you put sodium amounts in ? Thanks - 2/11/2014   5:02:09 PM
  • 132
    Oatmeal is the best as far as I am concerned, and I put a few raisins in mine and some fat free organic milk .. great .. for sure... the raisins give the oatmeal just a small enough amount that it doesn't spike ones sugar but still helps to create a sweet treat in the cereal.. ;) - 1/26/2014   9:08:45 PM
  • 131
    i think its smart to eat a good amount of fiber the first meal of the day, it seems to me it will help trap fats and sugars that come down the pipe next. - 1/12/2014   5:48:03 PM
  • 130
    I am very surprised that these "cereals" above come on your recommended list! First of all, wheat has a tendency to make us gain weight and I refrain from eating it. Second, all of those cereals need to be "fortified" with vitamins and minerals that are man made. My Mom always said that the cardboard box had more nutrition in it than those junk food cereals! Third, I do not support companies that use GMO products so that means I tend to shop around the outer parts of the grocery store where the raw fruits and veggies are and I refrain from going down the isles where the canned foods and junk food cereals are. Lastly, I want to see some articles from you reflecting better nutrition. That is the reason I am here! Thank you! - 12/2/2013   12:58:50 PM
    I want diabetic recipes that are simple and nourishing - 11/29/2013   11:32:54 AM
  • 128
    I love my raisin bran, banana and OJ whether it's hot or cold outside. Love my oatmeal too, I add raisins and or banana to it and sweeten it with a touch of molasses. YUM! - 11/16/2013   8:12:53 AM
  • 127
    Ma-Two-Five. I too grew up on a farm and my dad refused to use any kind of seed that contained GMO's. I have no qualms about taking apple 1 and crossing it with apple 2 to make a new apple 3. What I object to is the fact they are using chemicals to make them resistant to insects. I have seen first hand what can happen and I think everyone else has too. What do you think has happened to our bee population? I still garden today and I refuse to use any kind of modified seed. I still use what I call heritage seed that has come down from my family since my great-grandfather. When I do buy seed, I buy from Richter's here in Canada, GMO free. Our air is polluted, our rivers and lakes also. I try as hard as I can to keep it out of my food. Anyway you look at it Monsanto has to be shut down or at least have labeling so we can make choices. Why do you think Monsanto is fighting labeling? They have been banned from many countries now, including the countries they were meant to help. Here in North America big business runs our country, not people. - 11/12/2013   9:31:49 AM
  • 126
    I make every effort to a healthy, planned breakfast every morning.
    For this past week, my breakfast has been oatmeal with soy milk, flax seed and frozen fruit.
    When I want more protein, I will mix 2 egg whites.
    For cereal, I prefer cheerios. - 10/12/2013   5:26:13 PM
    I mix my cereals all in one bowl but I always have cherrios and fiber one. I don't eat cereal everyday and sometimes have it for my evening snack-I like it much better at that time. Cereal is not just for breakfast anymore. - 8/22/2013   1:07:53 PM
  • 124
    Best cereals you "should" be eating? I don't think so. If I need a bowl of something in the morning I will make some oatmeal or grits. - 8/9/2013   8:54:07 AM
  • 123
    Oh, how I love Wheetabix.... I usually dip it in the milk and bite off. That way, it stays crispy. :-) - 6/17/2013   1:52:33 PM
  • 122
    Salt levels are missing :-/

    - 6/8/2013   12:06:20 PM
  • 121
    I've always eaten high fiber high protein cereals (with little or or no added sugar, and no faux sweeteners) and I think that they are delicious, but maybe that is just because it is what I am used to. My husband eats the sugary stuff and refuses to even taste the healthier stuff. Fruit Loops are his favorite. - 6/7/2013   10:04:33 AM
    I eat just plain Special K....but I think I will be changing to a fiber rich cereal. My husband loves Corn Pops...he will be crushed! - 4/30/2013   3:02:37 PM
    astounded that special K is a no-no! - 4/20/2013   5:43:11 PM
  • 118
    Kashi! Yeah! Love their cereals and trail mix bars. - 3/7/2013   12:24:56 PM
  • 117
    i love cheerios and kix. - 3/4/2013   11:16:59 PM
    Steel cut oats are the best! But they do take about a half hour to cook. To cut that time down to about 10 minutes. Stir the oats into very hot water the night before you go to bed. Stir it and put the lid on. The next morning, turn on the heat, stir and cook, stirring often. - 3/3/2013   7:13:11 AM
  • 115
    For the celiacs in our midst... this wasn't the most helpful article .
    But maybe it helped someone else.
    - 2/25/2013   6:34:43 AM
  • JULES3819
    Time to pull out the steel cut oatmeal again. I'll have to take the time to cook it. I now have Agave syrup and blueberries to add and I think I have a banana and pineapple too! - 2/12/2013   4:53:51 PM
    These supposedly whole grain cereals are so processed that they do not contain any natural nutritional benefits at all.The vitamins,fiber and any other possible substance of value is added artificially. - 2/2/2013   11:49:19 PM
    I've been wheat (gluten) free for 3 months now. I haven't changed the rest of my diet. I weighed 240.5, 3 month ago, and weigh 225.4 today. Apparently wheat which is in about 80% of foods, has been GM 100 times and stores in the body as fat that the body can't use. It also affects other organs. I feel full eating rice pasta, corn bread, potato bread crumbs, quinoa cereals like MESA, etc. I've been drinking soy milk for 12 years and only had 2 colds in that time. I used to eat oats but not any more. I've eaten all of the above wheat cereals but they don't apply anymore to me. We still have nutritionists pushing milk and dairy products. BTW, I'm trying to get my 16-pound house cat on gluten-free as well and am searching for foods for him. - 8/23/2012   6:40:43 PM
  • 111
    I agree that the 10 healthiest cereals are some of the most tasteless choices. Also keep in mind that carbs convert to sugar, but the total fiber count helps reduce the net carbs and brings it down. Also eating a cereal that has 50 grams of fiber is major overkill on your system. Most bodies are not meant to handle so much at one time. I personally like to use good ole fashioned oatmeal and add the fresh or thawed berries, along with nuts, flax meal and sometimes throw in some protein powder. That really helps me last longer since I have a very physical job and burn it up quickly. Also I say go ahead and splurg on some fruit loops once in awhile.(not for breakfast) Every thing in moderation :) - 6/19/2012   8:20:05 PM
  • 110
    Interesting - but more interesting is the feedback!

    - 6/7/2012   3:14:03 PM
  • GRISI1107
    I don' eat cereal for breakfast because it doesn't take me trough the morning, hut i do eat it as a snack... I dont like sugary cereals they are too sweet for me I prefer cheerios so I can add the sugar I just need.... - 6/6/2012   6:26:54 PM
  • 108
    I'm glad I'm not the only one that commented about the taste of the "top best" cereals. It's one thing for them to be rated as the best nutritionally, but they need to taste good as well. I prefer Cheerios Multigrain over any other. I can eat it every day. It has vitamins, 110 cal. 1 g fat, 3 g fiber, 23 carbs and only 23 carbs. I add my fiber powder to it which adds 25 calories and 5 fiber. A great breakfast with 3/4 C skim milk. Ohhhh, and only 6 g of sugar!!! Most of the vitamins are 100% also.

    rumbamel - 6/6/2012   9:56:32 AM
  • 107
    Thank you for taking the effort to give me a table I can easily copy to my phone. I'm going to refer to this while shopping. There is so much to remember while changing to a healthy lifestyle, you are simplifying for me at a time when I need it. - 6/6/2012   9:14:17 AM
  • CINDYB3511
    eye opener - 6/6/2012   6:01:07 AM
  • 105
    good morning @ all,
    the list is gr8, but not helpful for me because i have to follow a gluten free diet and am also diabetic.
    is there somewhere a list for this special diet? i find it hard to find whole grain gluten free cerials or any other products made out of gluten free grains.
    is there someone in this community i can exchange experience with?
    i also write/read german...

    - 6/6/2012   5:50:20 AM
  • 104
    My only problem with any cold cereal is it just doesn't have any staying power for me. I would rather have my Coach's Oats with dried cranberries, flax, and soy milk. I will eat Whole Grain Cheerios as a snack, but not as my breakfast - 6/3/2012   8:34:19 PM
  • 103
    I don't think you can take a list like this and say these are the best or the worse. So much depends on the individual's needs. Are you overweight? Underweigth? Are you diabetic? List goes on and on. The bottom line is that you need to know your body and what works for you. Use good judgement and eat everything in moderation. I good thing becomes a bad thing if you over do it. This goes for exercise too. And if you have been in a bad rut for a long time and no longer know what is good for you get the advise of a reputable professional. It doesn't necessary have to be someone with a degree behind their name. Just someone with good common sence. I am learning a lot on my own just by tracking and reading about food from Spark People. - 6/1/2012   6:38:10 PM
    If the recommended rule is "Choose cereals with at least 5 grams of fiber per serving, and less than 5 grams of sugar," why do 4 of the 10 best cereals have less than 5g of fiber and 1 of those cereals have more than 5g of sugar? - 6/1/2012   2:59:49 PM
  • 101
    Thanks, Oobarboo. If it weren't for advances in agriculture we wouldn't even have enough cereal on the shelf to feed the 6 billion people on our planet. When is the last time that you ate a banana with a seed? Bananas were hybridized in the 1880's. Macintosh apples were created by a freak of nature and only exist because of grafting through human efforts. I know it's not genetically modified by human hands but... Part of the reason we have a weight problem in the developed world is because of our consistent access to processed food. Even my parents who were farm kids in the 30's lived with limited food and during the war years, rationing. GMO's exist because they meet the need of feeding the planet. We are too fortunate in North America that all of us who belong to the middle class and higher have never had to look hunger in the face since the end of WWII! We should be thankful to whatever god, economy and luck of birth landed us here with so much good (and highly processed fatty)food and that we even have the option of organic if that is where our conscience leads us.
    Personally, I love shredded wheat with nuts, fruit and a tiny bit of brown sugar. It makes my morning rock! - 6/1/2012   12:41:52 PM
    Heavy sigh of frustration as I read the comments regarding GMO crops...My family, also, has been in the farming "Agribusiness" for generations. I agree with Ma_Two_Five's comments and wholly support the use of foods derived from GMO commodities. It is true that GMO practices are nothing more than glorified hybridization. The foods that are produced are 100% safe, and no one has proven otherwise. And, FYI, Round-up becomes totally inert after application, there is no residue that gets absorbed into the plant or seed. Prior to the use of GMO "Round-up Ready" crops, fields were treated with much more dangerous chemicals that could leave residue which could be harmful if consumed. The use of GMO crops has led to SAFER foods for all of us. It is the misinformed opponents of GMO practices that need to get their facts straight. Look at the great strides science has made through the years by taking chances with modifying genetics. If there would have been such an outcry from people years ago, we would not have antibiotics to treat many once life-threatening diseases, we would not be able to produce antibiotics in mass quantities, and now, we would still be dousing our food crops with dangerous chemicals. Opponents to GMO have done an excellent job of instilling fear in the minds of the public. But this is one farm gal that doesn't buy into any of it. America still is producing the safest and least expensive food in the world. - 6/1/2012   10:59:39 AM
    Really surprised that Kashi Good Friends didn't make this list. There's even a shop rite version of it, which is way cheaper than the name brand available. My mom's been eating it for years. - 6/1/2012   9:26:25 AM
  • 98
    Thanks alot for the list, but I was kind of surprised by the Special K I will have to find someone to give them to! - 5/31/2012   10:34:45 PM
    I'm not particularly concerned about the involvement of Monsanto or GMOs in my cereal (although I totally respect the opinions of those who are), but I am REALLY interested in the taste of my cereal. And unfortunately I don't think any of the "ideal" cereals listed taste good at all without extreme modifications. Generally I just dodge the issue by not eating cereal, but I am disappointed that this article didn't try to strike a good balance between taste and nutrition or at least provide taste-enhancing suggestions for the approved cereals. As is, it's not going to make any impact on my food choices. - 5/31/2012   1:06:06 AM
    Wish the poster attempting to burst the GM bubble was correct. The whole GMO issue is a far cry from hybridization--corporations like Monsanto are engineering between species, not other varieties. Genetic engineering is gene splicing between species, including plants and animals. Never before in the history of mankind has bacteria, viruses or genetic material from unrelated species been spliced together to make up new foods. Trans-genetic transfer--gene splicing--is hazardous, imprecise and unpredictable. One primary motive behind genetically engineered crops is the ability to patent them and claim ownership in perpetuity. Further, consider the push to engineer crops to withstand enormous amounts of glyphosate (round-up, an herbicide). The grower of the crop will profit enormously from drenching its crops in this toxic substance--but what will the effect be upon your children? Education on the truth of GM products is the first step, labeling GM products is the second. - 5/30/2012   6:28:36 PM
    I eat Fibre 1 with a little bit of All Bran Buds and a handful of fresh blueberries every morning!! I also have a medium sized banana along with it. I don't feel any hunger for at least 2 1/2 hours. - 5/30/2012   3:26:49 PM

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