10 of the Best and Worst Cereals

By , SparkPeople Blogger
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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There are so many poor choices Report
thanks for the info Report
BIROVETU 3/5/2021
good Report
VHAYES04 2/27/2021
Ty Report
Fun article. like anything, I little is okay but too much of anything is not good. Report
TURQUROISE 11/18/2020
thank you for the list, I love wheat Chex as a snack Report
CSHEL10 10/31/2020
General Mills uses GMO ingredients in most of their products. I buy Nature’s Path cereal. It’s organic. Heritage Flakes have 23 G whole grain per serving. There’s 7g fiber and 5g sugar. I use unsweetened vanilla almond milk which has 0 sugar and only30 calories per cup Report
MUSICNUT 7/25/2020
Thanks for the great article! :) Report
love chex Report
I usually have a bowl of quick oats. Report
cereals need to be balanced out with fat and protein, a breakfast of just carbs isn't good for anybody. Report
Reading of labels is very important for cereals. Report
I'd like to know about the newer grainberry cereals. Report
We like Post Wheat and Bran Report
thanks Report
i don't mind great grains cereal Report
My son is a Type 1 diabetic, and he quit eating cereal because it kept making his blood sugar spike. These were the "healthy" cereals too. Report
Thank you for this important info! Report
Growing up in the 60's, my mother was already very health conscious and never bought any of the high sugar cereals. My favorites are Life and original Cheerios. I believe nothing is off limits as long as you account for it in your totals! Used to like Kashi Puffs mixed with yogurt and fruit, but most grocery stores stopped carrying it in favor of Kashi cereals with more sugar! Report
Just what I was looking for. Glad to see Grape Nuts on the list, I love them once I've softened them in the microwave
Great info! Thanks! Report
It is curious there is no mention of how many carbs are in a serving, that is highly important to be being a diabetic Report
I use Fruit Loops and Honey Cheerios for snacking.
I have tried some "Healthy" cereals but...not much flavor there. I do like Basic 4 and Great Grains (banana) and will mix either of those cereals with Life. Since I do not fear carbs, I want something a flavor and crunch I can enjoy. Report
I stick to bran flakes and fruit. Low sugar and plenty of fiber. Report
Good information to know. Thanks! Report
I gave up cereal all together... way too carby! Used to LOVE Cravklin Oat Bran tho. I’ll tell my carbavore husband about your awesome rule of 5s! Thank you for posting this. Very helpful :-) Report
Unfortunately, I ate most of those unhealthy cereals as a kid. I wouldn't touch them now. Yuck!
For those who are wondering, some of those healthy cereals can be found in the natural food section of the grocery store, not always with the cereals in the cereal aisle. At least that is how it is in the grocery store where I shop. Report
Thank you! Report
These are facts that everyone who cares about their health should know. Thank you! Report
Thanks Report
Never heard of 1/2 of those cereals. Report
Today, being the newly enlightened type that I am I stick to oatmeal (literally) and rasin bran, made with Bran flakes and my bought raisin (unfortunately all ready made rasin bran adds sugar to the raisins). BUT, back in the glorious good old days, I loved most of the cereals mentioned as nasty, ohh to have some cocoa krispies or cocoa puffs or Lucky Charms again, yes, that was then, and now, oatmeal. How advanced we've come.:( Report
My regular breakfast is Greejkmyogurt with fresh or frozen berries and bran buds... filling, delicious and lots of fibre. Report
I find this interesting. I never could eat cereal. Even the good-list cereals left my stomach queasy, yet it wasn't long before I was hungry again. I don't know why. Food allergy maybe? Report
Not fan of cereals. But as for the family, good to know! Report
I eat oatmeal for breakfast every day.
There is no ingredient list, it is healthy and delicious.
It takes about 3 minutes to prepare in microwave, then it simmers while I do my exercise and take a shower. Report
I was disappointed that some of my favorites like Cheerios original and Puffed Wheat and Puffed Rice aren't on the good list. Most of those on the good list I've never seen. The spoon size shredded wheat sound good. The bad list are all things I would not choose. Report
Great information. Thanks. Report
Love the 5 rule. Report
Whatta great article--=Too bad we didn't learn this 100 yrs ago--while growing up-- Report
One of my favorites is plain Bran flakes. No almonds, raisins. Etc. I just add my 1% milk and a fresh banana. Yum Report
Good article, I have only hear about or seen a couple of the healthy cereals and I have heard about and seen all the unhealthy cereals. Report
Oatmeal, corn flakes, bran flakes, rices krispies, rice chex, and special k are usually the ones I eat. Report
Funny,some of those 'bad' cereals were my favorites as a kid: CornPops, Honey Smacks, Apple Jacks,Froot Loops, Lucky Charms ,Cinnamon Toast Crunch and my very Fave~Choc.CoCo Puffs! As a mother,I have done a little better and stayed AWAY from serving those cereals to my child~but I admit,once in a while!
We focus on Barbara's Puffins and oatmeal with the dino eggs instead. While I have cereal as a staple for my breakfast,I STILL remember the Grape Nuts commercials as a kid, and many of the 'good' cereals listed ,but I don't eat them for breakfast. I need much MORE TASTE and I have found that my DH likes Honey Bunches of Oats which has 6 g of sugar ~low enough in my book that I will eat that or the Honey Bunches of Oats with Almonds or Fiber One ~Honey Clusters [Not the other FIber One!] or Rice Chex ~110 calories a cup or Honey Nut Cheerios.
EACH of THESE CEREALS has helped me to LOSE the 11 lbs. on the Summer 5%Challenge and the Interim {in -between 5% Challenges} Challenge for NINE STRAIGHT WEEKS non stop from June 24,2018 to now Sept.7,2018 !!!! And I eat breakfast regularly EVERY DAY without fail!~Check out the shared Nutrition tracker to see....and/or read the blogs.... Report
cereal "serving" size is tiny, much better ways to use calories than on most cereals. Report
I stick to oatmeal and yogurt with Grape Nuts and fruit. Cold cereal doesn't keep me full until lunch. Report
is Special K a good one to keep? Report
When I was a kid, Kellogg's Corn Pops were called Sugar Pops. Kellogg's changed the name to Corn Pops to try to fool consumers into thinking they were healthier.

My go to cereals are Quaker Old Fashioned Oats, Grape Nuts (I put 2 tablespoons in my fat free Greek yogurt), and Shredded Wheat.

I don't like any cereals with added ingredients like raisins or almonds, even if they are advertised as healthy. I prefer to add my own extras - that way I know exactly how much I'm eating. Report
I cook a big batch of steel cut oats in my slow cooker for a few hours and then portion it out. I've a quick and easy breakfast for the week with almost no work! Heat, add berries, and I have a healthy breakfast.