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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EVELYN473 3/8/2018
Fiber-One in high is protein (and no sugar). 1/2C every morning sticks with you. I like to add
a few pecans or walnuts and a few Craisins. Using almond milk is even better. Report
EVILCECIL 2/24/2018
Good list. Report
LUNA_IS_MY_HERO 11/28/2017
nothing processed for me anymore. Good old plain oatmeal with berries is my cereal of choose. Report
I love Kashi Go Lean crunch with honey and flax. I have it with berries almost every morning. Report
YMWONG22 8/26/2017
Good article Report
REDROBIN47 8/16/2017
I have a couple of healthy cereals that I alternate between Report
GEORGE815 8/14/2017
Cereals can be so unhealthy. Commercials for them look so good. Report
I like Honey Bunches of Oats with Almonds.It has 6 grams of sugar which I was surprised to find is less than Raisin Bran with 7 grams~though I like Raisin Bran ,too! I also will eat Fiber One Honey Clusters ,too! I have tried some of the cereals that are suggested and they are tasteless to me! Report
RAYNE_ 8/6/2017
carb count would be helpful... otherwise, its good info Report
ALUKOWSKY 8/1/2017
Growing up, we kept some of the "unhealthy" cereals in the cupboard, but we didn't eat them for breakfast. Instead, we'd grab a handful without milk and eat it as an after-school snack.

I LOVE Grape Nuts; it's my all-time favorite cereal. However, it has 200 calories a serving (BEFORE adding milk and/or fruit), as well as less fiber and protein than Kellogg's All-Bran, which wasn't even on the list! Also, why no oatmeal? Instant plain oatmeal sprinkled with cinnamon and maybe a tablespoon of raisins is very nutritious, filling, and tasty. Report
_CYNDY55_ 7/30/2017
Great Info, Thanks! Report
LIN1263 7/6/2017
I live in Canada and can get grape nuts, shredded wheat,kashi and chex. I buy the regular rice chex as I am gluten intolerant and will check into specialty cereals. I also buy gluten free quaker oats, unless oats say, they are cross contaminated. Report
BONDMANUS2002 6/27/2017
good to know Report
BONDMANUS2002 6/27/2017
good to know Report
MIRJIYUMMY 6/25/2017
Most of the healthy cereals you list are not available in my country, but I can get the Spoon Size Shredded Wheat, which I do! My favorite cereal in the whole world is Cap'n Crunch, I'm going to miss him! Report
NANHBH 6/23/2017
I don't eat cereal. I have a Shaklee 180 protein smoothee every morning. Report
MUSICNUT 6/19/2017
Thanks for the great information! :) Report
SUGARLAND8 6/9/2017
Good article. Report
MNCYCLIST 6/5/2017
Thanks, this is a helpful article. Report
3SISTERS 6/5/2017
Interesting Report
Great Report
ANNA-WALKER 6/2/2017
But CoCo Puffs are sooo good Report
R56678 6/2/2017
How about suggesting healthy cereals that are affordable? In my household, we would prefer the nutritious cereals, but are limited to the cheaper, junky cereals. I'm all for healthy living, but it frustrates me when wealthy personal trainers and dieticians try to shame the public for buying what they can actually afford. I wish healthy living came at a cheaper price. :P Report
DEE107 6/2/2017
great info I eat wheat chex but like rice chex better easier on the tummy Report
MEXGAL1 5/30/2017
Very informative! Great list! Report
Interesting. My favorite go-to when I'm really craving sugar bad is Cinnamon Toast Crunch. I eat it dry, one piece at a time so it takes longer to eat and seems like more. When I really want to splurge, I drink a glass of milk with it. Don't ever put the milk ON it because I don't like "soggy" cereal! Report
GRIZ1GIRL 5/30/2017
Hilarious list--left off all the "cereals I can afford & pronounce" that have whole grains & fiber, and vilified the cereals I buy for a fun treat. What's worse for you--a handful of Corn Pops or Apple Jacks, or a handful or Oreos? If you want a sweet snack, cereal is the way to go. Personally, I don't obsess over sugar...it seems sugar is this decade's current "evil." I'm sure it'll go the way of eggs, carbs, and fat...give it 10 years, sugar won't seem so bad after all. LOL! Report
HOLLYM48 5/30/2017
Great list! Very informative! Report
YMWONG22 5/30/2017
Thank you for the informative article. Report
PLCHAPPELL 5/30/2017
Not a surprising list Report
DBEAU57 5/30/2017
My favorite is Nature's Path Organic Mesa Cereal. It's gluten-free too. A serving is 3/4 cup, calories 120, fat 1 gram, sugars 4 grams, protein 3 grams, fiber 3 grams, sodium 125 grams. I add 1 oz. of slivered almonds, 1/2 cup blueberries, and 1 cup of milk. Report
ONLYINRED 5/29/2017
Thats funny, the first 2 and last cereals on the "bad list" are cereals that ive eaten for a post workout meal(for exactly the reason theyre on the list).btw, wheres fiber 1? Is it not here because it uses sweetener? I know sweetener is a hot topic amongst nutritionists. Report
MIDGIEDAWN2 5/29/2017
I quit eating cereal many years ago as even the better ones leave me starving in 2-3 hours. I do better with 1-2 eggs and a piece of fruit or Greek yogurt with berries and almonds for breakfast. If I am in a huge rush a small avacodo, 12 oz unsweetened almond milk and a scoop of protein powder in my blender. Sometimes I have a small amount of fruit with the shake such as half of a banana or 1 cup of fresh berries. Report
MARITIMER3 5/29/2017
I eat Kashi GoLean cereal as an evening snack. Lots of fibre. Report
LOULOU1709 5/29/2017
I eat Corn Biscuits, Grape-Nuts, Corn Flakes, and Rice Krispies. In between each cereal I eat Healthy Life Bread, Butter, and Poander Sugar Free Strawberry Preserved Report
JENN53888 5/29/2017
I really don't eat cereal for breakfast anymore but I do steal the kids Cinnamon Toast Crunch when I want a sugary snack though, but I buy cascade farms. I'll have to check what they use. :) Report
JENN53888 5/29/2017
I really don't eat cereal for breakfast anymore but I do steal the kids Cinnamon Toast Crunch when I want a sugary snack though, but I buy cascade farms. I'll have to check what they use. :) Report
JAREJIL 5/29/2017
I did sugar pops, Frosted Flakes and Capn Crunch as a kid, so my own kids got Cheerios, Raison Bran and Shredded wheat, I do Kashi Crunch in my Greek yogurt, but I don't see it on the list! Report
PJPEGG 5/29/2017
When my kids were little I would give them fruit loops without milk as a snack. One of the kids left a bowl on the front porch and when I saw it it was covered with ants. I left it until the ants finished it off. They ate the sugar off each fruit loop and left the cereal. I figured the ants knew something I didn't, and never bought fruit loops again. Report
JAVADIVA 5/29/2017
I stopped buying cereal because of the sugar content but didn't know what would be better options. Thanks for the helpful article! Report
I like Nature's Path Organic Heritage Flakes. They are crunchy and fulfilling in flavor and have decent numbers in the important nutrition categories. Report
Kinda glad I quit eating cerial for breakfast, but i do have it as a snack once in a while. Report
This list of good/ bad cereals are very helpful! Thank you all for sharing! I have been away from this site and so HAPPY I have returned! Goal Setting/ eating better Cereals are so awesome! Thank you all for sharing! Enjoy the Day! Smile! Make someone Smile today! Report
Also be sure to watch for Trisodium Phosphate (TSP) in some cereals, Lucky Charms to name one. It's just sad that carcinogens and other unhealthy things are being put in our foods. Report
MARTHA324 5/29/2017
I have fiber one w/Greek yogurt and fruit. Keeps me full til about lunchtime. Report
ETHELMERZ 5/29/2017
All the ones that are supposed to keep you satisfied until lunchtime are bogus, our whole dieting group tested them and that is false!! Everyone was famished by 10 am ....... Report
ECONLADY 5/29/2017
I eat total because I use to have trouble with being slightly anemic until I started eating total. Report
SDEECAL 5/28/2017
A lot of the healthy cereal are cereals I've never heard of. Maybe they aren't available in my area. Report
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
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