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?

Click here to to redeem your SparkPoints
  You will earn 5 SparkPoints


JINNYMAER 5/26/2017
Kellogg's All-Bran Buds. Slightly higher sugar (7g v 4 g) than with Grapenuts but more fibre (11g v 4g), fewer carbs (10 grams fewer) and much higher iron (25g v 10g!). I don't add sugar to anything unless I happen to have a cup of regular tea so I don't mind the extra 3 grams of sugar, I need the higher fibre & iron and the lower carbs. Report
GMACAMI 5/26/2017
my choices are grape nuts, rice chex, original cheerios, original rice crispies
DEE107 5/26/2017
good list Report
USMAWIFE 5/24/2017
thanks for the list Report
Thanks for the good list! Report
hard to dislike Spec K Delight.... Report
I've had most of these and they are all good. Report
I use to get the Uncle Sams Flakes where we use to live, but I can't find it here. Good to know that 2 cereals I always go to are on the list of the top 10 cold cereals :) Report
Excellent. Three of these are in my cupboard. I make bran muffins with the Fiber One cereal.

Spark on. Report
Very useful Report
LOL. One of my favorite cereals are on the worst cereal list. Note to self: Must change that!

Thanks for this article! Report
I love the Spoon Sized Shredded wheat with fresh fruit on it with a bit of honey! :D Keeps me full until lunch time! :D Report
But Special K Chocolately Delight is sooo gooooood! Especially with some fresh strawberries or a banana cut up in it! Report
A bad recommendation is fiber one...it contains aspartame. Report
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.
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.
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.
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! Report
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. Report
...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!* Report
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. :) Report
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!!!!!!! Report
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! Report
Haha!!! I eat at least 5 out of the 10 best....by hubby eats ALL on the worst list, lol Report
I do have a question though. What would be the 10 healthiest cereals for those who have problems with wheat or gluten? Report
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. Report
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? Report
Could you put sodium amounts in ? Thanks Report
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.. ;) Report
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. Report
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! Report
I want diabetic recipes that are simple and nourishing Report
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! Report
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. Report
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. Report
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. Report
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. Report
Oh, how I love Wheetabix.... I usually dip it in the milk and bite off. That way, it stays crispy. :-) Report
Salt levels are missing :-/

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. Report
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! Report
astounded that special K is a no-no! Report
Kashi! Yeah! Love their cereals and trail mix bars. Report
i love cheerios and kix. Report
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. Report
For the celiacs in our midst... this wasn't the most helpful article .
But maybe it helped someone else.
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! Report
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. Report
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. Report
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 :) Report
Close email sign up
Our best articles, delivered Join the millions of people already subscribed Get a weekly summary of our diet and fitness advice We will never sell, rent or redistribute your email address.

Magic Link Sent!

A magic link was sent to Click on that link to login. The link is only good for 24 hours.