What’s in your cereal?

Finding “real food” boxed cereal is not the easiest thing to do! But I know not everyone is looking for perfection so today I’m going to give you the low down on some of the bad, better and best options that are out there. Our personal favorite cereal is homemade granola, but we do buy boxed cereal on occasion for the kids or house guests.

My Rules for Cereal

  1. Nothing Artificial
    If the cereal looks neon in color or contains artificial sweeteners (or flavors) then just move right along. This one is a non-negotiable for me!
  2. Whole Grains
    Is the cereal 100% whole grain? Or does it at least contain more whole grains than refined grains (i.e. what’s listed first on the ingredient label)?
  3. Low or No Sugar
    Does the cereal contain added refined sugar (listed under a variety of names such as cane juice, rice syrup, agave, corn syrup, etc.)? If so, how high up is it on the ingredient list and how many grams of sugar are listed on the nutrition label? Ideally I prefer options with no more than 2 or 3 grams of added sugar per serving.
  4. Short List of Ingredients
    The longer the list of ingredients the more (unwanted) additives a product likely contains! Shorter is better in most cases.

Breakdown of Cereals

There are of course so many things we could consider when looking at cereals, but based on my criteria …here’s how some of the more popular brands stack up!

What's in your cereal on 100 Days of Real Food

Really Bad (The Worst Offenders!)

What's in your cereal on 100 Days of Real Food - honeysmacks

What's in Your Cereal on 100 Days of #RealFood - Fruity Pebbles

What's in your cereal on 100 Days of Real Food - cocoa pebbles

What's in your cereal on 100 Days of Real Food - frosted flakes

What's in your cereal on 100 Days of Real Food - froot loops

What's in your cereal on 100 Days of Real Food - Honey Bunches of Oats
Even with all the research I’ve done, I was a little surprised this was one of the worst offenders. I used to love this cereal and eat it often! Grrr…

Bad

What's in your cereal on 100 Days of Real Food - Special K

What's in Your Cereal on 100 Days of #RealFood - Rice Krispies

What's in your cereal on 100 Days of Real Food - Puffins

What's in your cereal on 100 Days of Real Food - Life

What's in your cereal on 100 Days of Real Food - Corn Pops

What's in Your Cereal on 100 Days of #RealFood - Honey Nut Cheerios

What's in your cereal on 100 Days of Real Food - Lucky Charms

What's in your cereal on 100 Days of Real Food - Golden Grahams

What's in your cereal on 100 Days of Real Food - Heartland Granola

Better

What's in your cereal on 100 Days of Real Food - Cheerios

What's in your cereal on 100 Days of Real Food - Total

What's in your cereal on 100 Days of Real Food - Rice Chex

What's in your cereal on 100 Days of Real Food - Kix

What's in Your Cereal on 100 Days of #RealFood - Wheat Chex

What's in your cereal on 100 Days of Real Food - Ezekiel

Best

  What's in your cereal on 100 Days of Real Food - Puffed Corn

Whats in Your Cereal on 100 Days of Real Food - Shredded Wheat

Is this post going to change what breakfast looks like at your house? I’d love to know the details in the comments!

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212 thoughts on “What’s in your cereal?”

    1. Amy Taylor (comment moderator)

      Hi there. You could choose the shredded wheat or another example is the puffing process concerns you.

  1. Most people will look at reviews and testimonials online before any item is purchased.
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  2. We love frosted flakes. Recently, I found Simply Balanced Frosted Flakes at Target. Ingredients are organic corn, organic cane sugar, and sea salt. I figured 3 ingredients were better than alternative.

  3. Thank you for this post! I am struggling to find an adequate “pour in a bowl and go” breakfast cereal I feel good giving to my kids. Do you happen to know how many grams of sugar is in your homemade granola recipe (per serving) posted on this site?

  4. Why are Rice Krispies and Cheerios listed as having no artificial ingredients? BHT is listed on the Rice Krispies ingredient list as in the packaging and it can be leached into the foods? I’ve heard Cheerios has it as well.

    1. I changed my cereal after reading your book. I now eat Barbara’s Shredded Wheat. I looked for it specifically after seeing it listed on page 54. I love it! And I love your book! I’ve made many of the recipes. They are fantastic. I think my husband would kiss your cheek to say thanks for the Whole Wheat Banana Pancakes recipe. I add blueberries, and I think I hear him humming every time we eat them.

    2. Amy Taylor (comment moderator)

      Hi there. Yes, it is an additive Lisa likes to avoid as well, but it was not one of the things she looked at for this particular post because she was trying to keep things simple. It could technically fall under the short list of ingredients criteria though – in general she likes to look for foods that contain ingredients she cooks with at home (and BHT is obviously not one of them!).

  5. We are on WIC, so I’m not allowed organic cereals. I try my best to stay away from BHT and the like, and don’t understand why they can’t use the mixed tochepherals instead in all of them if they have too. Though I read somewhere (sorry can’t remember where) that the tochepherols in cereals can be misleading as well. I appreciate having WIC, but what they deem healthy is not always the case. And all the good cereals many of you have listed, aren’t options on WIC. I can get instant oatmeal or cream in individual packets of wheat, but I’d rather have the old-fashioned. And who knows which of these have GMO that WIC allows. And honestly trying to get away from processed stuff anyway, so I may be soon writing to WIC to voice my concerns!!

  6. I do not buy cereals, Colds months is steel cut oats, red river or large flake oatmeal. Also I try not eat BMO foods such as corn and soya.

  7. Great list, but I actually think I would bump up Ezekial to “best” because of its naturally-occuring sugar and the fact that it has a lot more fiber and protein than other cereals. I know it wasn’t a part of your original criteria, but it can be an important factor when weighing nutritional values and how the sugar gets broken down. I’d much rather give the sprouted Ezekial grains to my child over the puffed corn.

  8. What about the cereals with corn, even whole grain corn? Should we be concerned about the GMO’s? Are the best ones you listed organic? I know Kix is not.
    Thanks.

    1. Amy Taylor (comment moderator)

      Hi Alisa. I think we are all concerned about what we don’t know about GMOs and what to see items labled. Barbara’s above has the non GMO seal. Also, anything labeled as organic is supposed to be free of GMOs.

  9. I eat only old-fashioned oatmeal. My husband, though, LOVES all the bad ones, and some of the REALLY BAD ones (Honey Bunches of Oats, Honey Nut Cheerios, for instance).. I don’t think I could get him to stop eating them for anything.

  10. I look for the “Non-GMO” butterfly. There are few cereals with that endorsement. One is Grape Nuts. A few Barbara’s cereals have it. On the list above, I think the only one is Barbara’s Shredded Wheat.

  11. I now live in the UK and we generally only have either Weetabix or Scott’s Porage Oats in the house.

    For Weetabix, the ingredients are: Wholegrain Wheat (95%), Malted Barley Extract, Sugar, Salt, Niacin, Iron, Riboflavin (B2), Thiamin (B1), Folic Acid. Yes, there is sugar (4.4g per 100g), but it’s not corn syrup or one of the other nasties. We use the rule that if it isn’t especially nasty, and it comprises less than 5% of the total, we don’t worry about it. (In fact, this is DH’s cereal and I’m more concerned about the stuff he puts on *top* of it, but … another story.)

    The Scott’s Porage Oats, on the other hand, has only “100% Scott’s Rolled Oats” and interestingly, that’s the one I’m more concerned about. Why? Because it isn’t just 100% rolled oats, it’s Scott’s oats (whatever that means) and Scott’s has refused to say where they source their Scott’s oats. They have also refused to say how they mill the oats (secret process, of course), and whether their oats could be affected by GMO grains. (Can oats be GMO yet? Dunno, but EU has pretty strict rules about non-GMO, so probably not such a big concern.) Meantime, it’s the best oats we can get here, so that’s what I have for breakfast on cold days, with a bit of Kerrygold butter, wild Welsh organic (yes, it is!) honey and some local raw milk. Yum! Worth every calorie, most definitely!

    Can we get totally “clean” with our cereal? Not sure, but we’re taking it one step at a time. And doing a lot of reading and research. Meantime, I keep trying to pry the sweetener out of my diabetic husband’s hands — wish me luck!

    -Michelle G

  12. Thanks for all he research and info. We haven’t purchased he really sweet, over processed, “colored” cereals for years. Our go-to is usually Frosted Mini Wheats or Kashi Go Lean Crunch. I know they contain sugar, but we don’t eat it every day. My regular breakfast is rolled oats. There are so many creative ways you can fix it and so many different fruits and nuts you can add to it, I never get tired of it. I also make homemade granola bars so I can regulate the sugar content. Thanks again for the article.

  13. I’m rather surprised that the Puffins was listed as bad. Sure, it has a bit more sugar than some others, but it is one of the only non-GMO brands I can afford. I tried Cascadia Farms cereals when they were on sale and I thought they were too sweet. And I don’t understand about the puffing process being bad. Can someone explain this or post a link to the study? When they tested lab rats did they make sure they were testing non-GMO corn puffs, and wheat that had not been sprayed with glyphosate (Roundup) to dry it down for harvesting? It could be it’s the GMO/glyphosate and not the puffing that’s the problem!

    1. I was likewise going to comment on the “puffed corn” recommendation. Here is an excellent article by Sally Fallon (of the Weston A. Price Foundation), describing one study showing how ridiculously toxic puffed wheat was to a group of lab rats, and another study describing how toxic cornflakes were to a group of lab rats: http://editor.nourishedmagazine.com.au/articles/puffed-grains-should-we-eat-them. We can probably extrapolate that puffed corn isn’t going to be any better than either of these options from a health perspective. Ever since I first read that study on the lab rats dying from eating puffed wheat, my family has stayed away from puffed cereals completely.

      1. Many “ifs” and “likely”s in that article. Maybe the studies weren’t published because they couldn’t pass a peer review. If they were set up as a joke, maybe the controls weren’t rigorous. I wouldn’t go near any boxed cereals these days, but let’s not stray too far from true scientific methodology here.

      2. It’s true that unpublished research cannot be regarded in the same light as published research, but when I dug a little deeper I found a source stating that the first study (the puffed wheat one) was conducted by the cereal company themselves, in 1942, but then locked away in their files (presumably because publishing those findings would be really bad for business) and not discovered until years later. If this is to be believed, it would explain why it wasn’t published. This doesn’t prove anything one way or the other, but I’m guessing the cereal company was hoping to show how nutritious their product was (or at least hoping that the puffed wheat would be equally as nutritious as the regular wheat berries), and instead found that the extrusion process was toxic to the rats. Rigorous controls or not, the results are ominous enough to keep me away from puffed cereals. I realize that animal experiments don’t always translate to human applicability, but I am not volunteering to be a human lab rat when I have plenty of nutritious options available. The benefits don’t outweigh the risks, and more (published) research is needed.

  14. I agree with some other comments. Why not list the cereals we would actually consider buying??? Obviously I’m NOT buying Fruit Loops, Lucky Charms, etc….However from time to time we do buy Casscadia Farms, Barbara Naturals and the more “healthy” brands. Why not do a comparison on these please!

  15. The problem is that all your “good” cereals have no fiber or protein. So it’s basically empty calories and whoever eats it will be hungry again in about an hour.

  16. What about “better” cereal brands like Cascadian Farms and Kashi? Wouldn’t your readers, myself included, be more likely to buy those brands than a lot of the ones listed? Thank you, though, for the well-intentioned post!

  17. From someone whose household staples include Cascadian Farm and Nature’s Path organic granola cereals, here’s my question: If homemade granola is really the best health-wise, does the half-cup honey in your recipe add up to much less sweetener than in those brands (around 10 or 11 grams per serving)? Because besides the sugar content, the list of ingredients in those name brand cereals (including whole oats and flax seed, etc.) seem fairly healthy.

  18. I’m wondering where Barbara’s Multigrain Spoonfuls (not to be confused with Multigrain Squares) stands in the “Bad, Better, Best” rating. My guess would be “better” but there are two ingredients that I can’t decipher: Tocopherols (antioxidants to preserve freshness) and Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid). They are listed last and Whole grain flour is first. There are 19g Whole grains per svg. and only 5 grams sugar

  19. I have noticed several cereals with “Lower Sugar” are now sneaking sucralose into their ingredient lists without any other mention of “artificial sweetening” on the box – even so-called healthy cereals like Fiber One. Gotta read those labels every time!!

    1. I was thinking the same thing. If you don’t like artificial, then all Chex and the Total have to go. BHA and BHT and TBHQ and all petroleum based artificial preservatives.

  20. I love the idea of rating cereals, but half of the items on this list are so obviously “very bad” not even my 11 year old would bother asking me to buy. This rating would be helpful to point out the deceptive cereals from brands such as Kashi, Nature’s Path, Cascadian Farm’s, etc. that most of your readers would be more apt to purchase. In my own household it’s all about finding a healthy cereal that my child and husband will actually eat.

  21. We don’t eat cereal in our home for the very reason that it requires too much effort to figure out what’s healthy & what’s not.

  22. I’m really surprised that Honey Bunches of Oats is one of the worst offenders because it is WIC* approved! Kix, Cheerios, and Rice Chex is on their approved list, but Barbara’s Shredded Wheat, Puffed Corn, and Ezekiel is not.

    That aside, cereal has long been known to be unhealthy, in general. My favorite thing to eat and fee my children for breakfast is plain oatmeal with a little bit of salt (so it’s not so bland). No sugar or cinnamon, or other additives. We eat this with a piece of fruit on the side. It’s the perfect breakfast!

    *WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) is a government subsidy program that gives checks to lower income women and children for food. All of their food has to be “healthy”.

    1. First off, do NOT trust the federal government to tell you what is healthy. Their recommendations are often swayed by lobbyists which protect the interests of food industries. Just look at the school lunch program. Marion Nestle and other food writers address it in their books.
      I am guessing the WIC list includes cereals commonly available most grocery stores (General Mills, Kellogs, etc). Also the word whole grain has been tainted. For example, rice kirispies and rice chex are made with whole grain WHITE rice, so technically a whole grain, but all the healthy brown part of the rice has been stripped away. Thus the cereal is no longer healthy, but a refined white carbohydrate. Brown rice on the other hand is a true WHOLE grain with actual fiber. It would be easy to make Chex with brown rice, except that it wouldn’t be shelf stable for years on end, so they don’t.
      If a cereal starts with rice, wheat or oats, not BROWN rice or WHOLE GRAIN wheat/oats (not sure what they call whole grain corn), it is not a true whole grain. Just read how much fiber is in the so called whole grain cereal. Joe’s O’s (Trader Joe’s cheerio’s knock off), starts with whole grain oats and contains 3 grams of fiber compared with 5 grams in a bowl of steel cut oats. While the oats are still better, many refined grain cereals have only 1 gram of fiber, proving they are not made with true whole grains.

  23. I was in Peru last year on vacation and puffed corn and puffed millet cereals were on the breakfast buffets at every hotel we stayed in. With quinoa also served with practically every meal, I was just amazed at how clean and simple their eating was compared to ours in the USA. Several of us actually lost weight while on this trip and we attributed that to our healthy eating and daily exercise. Gee, what a concept!

  24. While Puffins have more sugar than I’d like, I thought they were a okay choice for cereal Saturday. What is considered a refined grain in the ingredient list?

  25. Yep, I think all cereal is pretty bad. BHT is bad, most corn is gmo, and even the “healthier” ones are denatured extruded grains. We cut out all cereal two years ago and it has been great, and a huge money saver.

  26. Processed cereal isn’t good for you period. I love cereal, so it’s been difficult for me even 4 years after removing it from my diet. I have a corn allergy and its been a huge blessing. I still sort of wish I didn’t have it, but it opened my eyes to real, whole food eating. I consider almost every processed cereal as junk food full of gmos. It’s been a hard transition for my children but we eat steel cut oats, millet, eggs, and sometimes blender batter waffles from Sue Gregg’s site. It involves soaking the grains overnight. My children do sometimes eat Kashi Cinnamon Harvest, certainly not an everyday thing or even monthly. Anyway, I was surprised that anyone would really even think processed cereal was ok. It’s certainly not whole food.

    I also agree with the other commenters, BHT is NOT good.
    http://thegoodhuman.com/2009/09/24/what-is-bht-butylated-hydroxytoluene-and-why-you-should-avoid-it/

    1. Carey, I agree with you. Cereal is processed food. I’m not a big cereal eater but occasionally that’s the only option. If you pick an organic whole grain cereal without all the “junk additives” and sugar, its the lesser of many evils. While the goal to remove all processed food from our diet is a worthy one, there will be times when compromise is needed. I think the idea is to be aware of what you’re eating so you can make the best possible choices when the situation arises.

  27. We live overseas where the variety of cereal is limited and almost always available is the sugary stuff like Trix, Lucky Charms, etc. This list is very helpful, as I can at least look at the few options we have and choose a bit more wisely! Thank you!

    1. Hi Emily, As I understood it, suppliers to both UK/European nations and US add more sugar, fat, and salt to the US versions. I wish I had an option to buy some of the cereals they offered while I was in Scotland.

  28. I think Ezekial should be on the best list. The one listed here is the Cinnamon Raisin and has more sugar only because of the raisins. There are really no offensive ingredients. Their other types…Original & Flax do not have the raisins and therefore have 0g sugar. It’s very much like GrapeNuts but I think healthier…I haven’t looked at GrapeNuts ingredients lately.

    1. I agree with you, Misty. Ezekiel should be listed in the “best” category. I usually buy the “Original” variety with zero sugar grams.

  29. What about Kashi cereals? So many people (myself included…sometimes oatmeal gets old) reach for them in an attempt to be “healthy” that I’m sure there are others out there that would like to see how they stack up!

    1. Amy Taylor (comment moderator)

      There are SO many cereals out there. Just take a look at the ingredient list to see how it stacks up.

  30. We love the EnviroKids Leapin Lemurs in our house. I acknowledge that they have a fair amount of sugar (8g), but I’ve learned to pick my battles and their ingredient list is much less scary than many of these.

  31. Yikes! I never eat cereal and think I’ve eaten something nutrition or healthy… It is almost always as a treat or dessert. Honey bunches of oats – mmmmmm! One of my favorite ways to blow my real food program.

  32. Honey bunches is really not that bad. It’s made with whole grains and has a v small amount of our daily sugars (our bodies actually need sugar btw). One or two artificial things will not kill a person. I feel like this movement gets a little crazy sometimes. Like, obvs don’t drink soda, sugary cakes, basically things that are obviously terrible, like those more sugary cereals (but who didn’t know that?). But if you’re getting your veggies, fruits, grains and water, all of this extra is just unecessay unless you have a terrible allergy. Remember that the health food industry is an industry just like McDonalds or Nestle. Don’t be fooled by stuff like this. You’re kid will be perfectly fine with a cup of honey bunches for bfast, one online article saying that X causes cancer does not make it true. Think for yourselves.

  33. I do not eat processed food, I eat eggs with black beans for breakfast or steel cut oats. My son eats Cheerios as a snack but eats eggs and black beans or steel cut oats for breakfast, occasionally pancakes with pure maple syrup.

    1. When I looked a Grape nuts it looked just fine, actually quite clean. It’s not organic, but definitely a good choice. Whole grain, 4 ingredients & 5gm sugar per serving (from malted barley I’m assuming).

  34. How do feel about One Degree Organic cereals? They are organic & sprouted and very little sugar & short list of ingredients. After nearly 7 yrs I am finally letting my kids have cereal for breakfast a couple times/week. They are thrilled.

      1. Whole Foods, Stop & Shop (in the North East – CT). WF had it on sale for $3.99/box today I picked up a few. They have a few varieties of O’s, flakes & puffed rice.

  35. Hay algunos cereales de desayuno que sean equivalentes a los Barbara’s schedded o los puffed corn en España?
    Muchas gracias de antemano.

  36. What about Erewhon?
    1. Corn Flakes: Ingredients: Organic Milled Corn, Sea Salt, 0 gm Sugar
    2. Crispy Brown Rice: Ingredients: Organic Brown Rice, Organic Brown Rice Syrup, Sea Salt, less than 1 gm Sugar
    they have 2 or 3 other cereals with similar numbers
    I highly recommend them

  37. The Arrowhead Mills puffed corn makes a great non-messy toddler snack too! (much better than the packaged sugary “puffs” that are so popular)

  38. i really don’t understand how cereals with BHT listed in the ingredients made the “better” list. i agree, cereals high in sugars should be avoided, but there are many things worse than sugar…BHT is one of them. folks, just use your common sense. besides, cereals should be avoided anyway, especially for children.

    1. Amy Taylor (comment moderator)

      Hi Alex. We are trying to help people make improvements to their food choices. We are not suggesting these are perfect.

  39. We do not do cereal, unless we have guests. It takes less than a minute to scramble an egg, and I often have hard boiled eggs on hand. We offer the kids yogurt & fruit, or real oatmeal. They are satisfied with those options and we couldn’t be more pleased.

  40. Did you take a look at Trader Joe’s O’s? or Puffins? I’ve always loved those two…but I haven’t bought any boxed cereal since I found your book. My husband really likes the granola cereal but I sure do miss my Joe’s O’s!

  41. Unfortunately when I go with low sugar cereals, my kids (all teenagers) will just add a spoonful of sugar over the top to sweeten them up. They probably end up with more sugar than if I went with a just slightly more sweetened cereal.

    1. I did that as a kid. I try to stick with 5g or less (so we’re OK with Rice Krispies, Wheat Chex, etc.), and let them sweeten the cereal with fruit (dried, fresh, or frozen) instead.

    1. I was going to point this out. BHT and BHA are artificial preservatives and you definitely want to avoid them. They are banned in many other countries and are considered to be a carcinogenic. Not only this, but my husband became severely allergic to BHT (anaphylaxis, severe hives, etc).

  42. So, we pretty much only buy honey bunches of oats. I had no idea it was that bad. My question is though, why is it that terrible? Because of the amount of ingredients? Or the amount of sugar? Because you posted the picture of the ingredient list and I have read it before and it says that it has whole grains, but under your whole grain section you labeled it as a NO. I’m confused and wondering what exactly puts this cereal in the top for worst. Had I known this a while ago I would have switched years ago!

  43. How do you tell the added sugar amount from the natural sugar amount? Raisins have a crazy amount of sugar but it’s technically not added.

    I personally judge my cereals by what they do to my blood sugar (I’m reactive hypoglycemic). I have found that the sugar is less important than the sugar to fibre + protein ratio. So I can eat a cereal with 9 g sugar because has 5 g fibre and 4 g protein. Cheerios, on the other hand, crashes my blood sugar HARD in 20 min flat. Whole oats are great, but ground up oat flour is not ok, whole grain or not. So keep in mind that sheer quantity is not the only important factor.

  44. It would be great to have a comparison of the cereals that those of us who eat whole foods often choose from (available in the ‘natural’ aisle or coop). What about kashi, cascadian farms, bear naked granola, alpine muesli, kind granola, etc?

  45. We eat boxed cereal a few days a week for convenience sake as my kids can help themselves. I buy Joe’s O’s (trader Joe’s Cheerios knock off with 1 gram of sugar and no BHT) and Nature’s Path Organic “Crispy Rice” (basically a brown rice krispie with 2 grams of added sugar). Though I do worry about the added SYNTHETIC vitamins. I avoid puffed grains based on what I have read. Our usual breakfast staples are steel cut oats, muesli, local eggs, yogurt or whole spelt muffins all served with fruit, or leftover whole wheat pancakes, waffles, crepes or french toast served with fruit and local sausage.

  46. Thanks for posting this – very helpful! The way the recommended daily allowances are written at the bottom of the article is a bit confusing. It looks like it reads greater than when it should be less than or equal to the various amounts of sugar.

  47. i stopped buying cereal about a year ago. i don’t miss it other than a quick/easy breakfast for the kids. i do make homemade granola from time to time for that reason. we do refrigerator bran muffins, eggs, steel cut oats in the crockpot, etc.

  48. I stopped eating this type of cereals 3 years ago for all the reasons you stated. I just could not seem to find any cereal that fit the criteria to consider it “healthy” thanks for the list, I now know which one to purchase if I ever wish to have cereal (allthough I don’t miss it)

  49. My Dr. told me a couple of years ago that plain shredded wheat was about the only healthy cereal, so that’s what I buy. I do buy granola just to mix a spoonful in with plain yogurt. Even organic does not necessarily mean healthy. It’s a lot for a normal, busy person to try and figure out when grocery shopping & cooking.

  50. Hi,

    Quick question? I believe that Cheerios have the BHT preservative in them, which has been touted as a hormone disruptor in some places.
    What do you think about this component?

    Thank you!

  51. Love this post. Cheerios are a staple at our house so “whew”!
    We also buy a lot of Moms Best brand cereals. Their “lucky charms” version uses fruit and veggie juice for coloring. It’s a treat I don’t feel super guilty about getting my kids.
    Check it out!

  52. I used to think I was making healthy choices for my family with “good” cereals. Then I realized many have as much sugar as ice cream and as much salt as a bag of chips. I gave up cereal all together about 5 years ago and when my kids have it now that think it is gross and makes them hungrier.

  53. I just want to cry! How overwhelming this all is! I am so thankful for your hard work on these blog posts and on your recipes. I feel terrible that even my “healthy” choices were really bad for my three precious children. I can’t afford to toss out everything in my cupboards, but I am going to slowly finish and then replace our food bit by bit. Thanks so very much for sharing all of your knowledge with all of us!

    1. Don’t feel bad! How were you supposed to know when all we see and hear is campaigns from food companies telling us what is healthy and what isn’t! I am exactly like you. We have never eaten too horribly bad, and I make alot of our food, but I was also buying things that said “healthy” or “low-fat” thinking I was doing my family a favor. And I also cannot afford to throw everything out, nor can I afford to 100% organic, so we are just replacing what we can with whole, organic foods as we run out, we’ve cut back meat, milk, and egg consumption so that I can start to be able to afford organic versions of those. It’s a process and just know that you are not alone. And just because we were feeding that stuff to our kids does not mean we were being harmful on purpose…we didn’t know!!! Please don’t feel bad

      And yes Lisa, thank you for all you’re doing to help educate the world. We feel so thankful that we came across your blog!!!

    2. Stay the course, Joy and don’t despair! It’s a slow process but every change you make, even what seems the smallest, most insignificant all add up! I’ve been on this journey for a couple of years and I’m still learning all the time. And remember, you need to do what works for you. Sure, in a perfect world we would all be 100% real, organic, whole food but real life doesn’t work that way so ignore the naysayers and do what you can!! I have 3 children as well and they are adapting well and learning to make good choices on their own. That being said, do they ever sweet talk me into buying a box of Honey Nut Cheerios as a treat on occasion? Sure do! And I’m ok with it because on the day to day they eat clean (our version). Do what works for you and don’t feel it has to happen overnight! Any change is good change on this journey!

  54. I don’t personally eat a lot of cereal but my son does. According to the list all the cereal I buy for him is in the “better” category. None fall in the “bad” category. The ones in the “best” category just do not look appetizing. I probably would not enjoy eating them and my son won’t eat them. Maybe I should start making some homemade granola cereal.

  55. Doesn’t change breakfast at our house. Sadly none of the “best” cereals are safe for tree nut/peanut allergies (last time I checked with arrowhead mills they manufacture on shared lines (meaning there is a cross contamination risk). It’d would be lovely to not have to choose between something “real” and somethings safe. Until that gets better with companies and allergies I’ll keep doing the best I can.

    1. Try Erewhon crispy brown rice. Ingredients are brown rice, brown rice syrup and salt. And less than 1g of sugar! They are organic and Peanut free. We also have peanut allergy. They have corn flakes and Raisin Bran. I know they have other varieties I don’t remember now.

  56. I read once to look for dietary fiber of more than 5 grams. Do you think this is a beneficial tool in evaluating cereals?

  57. I am so glad I found this page today! I just got done telling my kids and husband to enjoy the cereal we have now, cause when it’s gone I am only replacing it with “the good stuff”. Now I know what that is!!! I am totally new at this and I’m looking forward to learning how to transform our eating habits. :)

  58. I have a question….arrowhead mills corn puffs looked really good-except for one thing. Are they organic? Because I’m thinking that even though they are nothing but whole grain corn, if that is GMO corn then that cereal would be bad on my list.

  59. We hardly ever eat cereal – the rare box of Cherrios maybe once a year. I occasionally make homemade granola. We do eat oatmeal. Breakfast is mostly eggs with toast/homemade muffins/pancake/waffle, or oatmeal. Smoothies are popular too.

  60. Honey bunches of oats is my favorite! :( but they’re is a whole grain version out now… I wonder how that stacks up… I might have to make some changes…

  61. Crud!!! I’m so glad I joined this page at the same time, crud, crud, crud!! I’m learning a lot and continue but I thought Kix and Rice Chex would’ve been rated higher. Time to switch it up! Thank you for educating me :)

  62. Well, no, it won’t change breakfast at our house, but we don’t do a whole lot of boxed cereal either. Sometimes Cheerios or Kix, but normally it’s homemade oatmeal (I buy rolled oats and we put in our own mix-ins) or eggs (we have backyard chickens).

  63. We usually use homemade oatmeal, Weetabix or shredded wheat…but occasionally Honey Nut cheerios or Life (oops). Good info. THANKS

  64. Well, breakfast has already taken a drastic change in my house because I mostly cook some whole wheat pancakes, waffles, oatmeal, etc. However, recently I have cracked down on the cereal that is purchased. My go to brand has been Mom’s best or Kashi lately, but based off a lot of information above i’ll be evaluating all those labels as well. Other cereals I do not buy at all, my husband, on the other hand, sneaks them in the house! Today we had a discussion on hydrogenated oils, I think he was grossed out and might think twice before consuming things with that ingredient listed. Thanks for all the information you provide, very helpful to keep me and my family on track in 2016!

  65. The cereals in our house are: shredded wheat n bran, kix, and Cheerios. One tip I learned in a college nutrition class is to look and see if there are more fiber grams than sugar grams. Shredded wheat n bran is one of the only ones that passes that test.

  66. I like Barbara’s Shredded Wheat and make my own granola. I am glad to see rice and wheat chex and Cherrios towards the top, they are usually in my pantry for my family. I had avoided them, thinking of them as processed food.

  67. BHT doesn’t bother you? I try to avoid this ingredient leaving very few options that are also Low or lower in sugar as well as few ingredients, etc.

    1. I am glad you asked this, too, Jill. I wondered the same thing! I avoid it at all costs and just as you said, it is extremely limiting. I’m curious how Lisa will respond to this question regarding this unnatural, dangerous and wide-spread ingredient that gives cause for concern.

  68. What about “natural” cereals that contain no artificial ingredients but are packaged with materials containing BHT for preservative power? Awful and tricky way to ruin many otherwise (semi)good products by some manufacturers… check your Chex and other big name brand varieties … most of them are packaged that way, unfortunately & it’s still harmful.

    1. I know!!! I was so bummed. The Kix don’t have BHT but other General Mills cereals do. I don’t get it. The Cheerios don’t either. I wish my kids liked oatmeal. The hubs and I eat homemade granola every morning. I like having cereal for back up or a treat. I really need to be better about making oatmeal “casseroles” which my kids do like.

  69. We have tried the puffed corn and the taste is ok… but even if you ate the WHOLE bag you’d still be hungry. It isn’t satisfying at all. My boys will eat the shredded wheat, but it’s not really very palitable…. texture is very rough and doesn’t have much taste… It has lots of good for you stuff without the sugar though.

    1. Yes, I think while puffed corn has a “real food” ingredient list, it is a terrible breakfast choice that provides little nutrition or lasting fullness.

  70. Are there actually a tablespoon of raisins in a serving of Ezekiel cereal? The 3rd ingredient is malted barley, aka added sugar, so I think more of that sugar comes from something other than raisins than you might be accounting for.

    I buy brown rice crisps, which are whole grain and have less sugar, Organic O’s (I cannot remember the brand, but for some strange reason, it’s hard finding organic O’s without much added sugar or other nonsense!), and make my own granola. My granola has 1/2 cup sweetener (honey or maple syrup) for about a 6 cup batch, which I just recently realized is 2 tsp per half cup serving! I’ll need to make some adjustments there.
    Oh well, once you know better you can do better, right!

    1. There are several kinds of Ezekiel cereals with no sugar so in the cinnamon raisin version the sugar is from the raisins

    2. Substitute some of the honey or maple syrup with unsweetened apple sauce in your granola – that’s what we do, and the kids love it!

      1. Oooh, I’ll have to try that. Although I dehydrate my granola because I can do 8 c. a time. I imagine that would probably still work.

    3. I too agree homemade sugar has way too much added sugar. Consider making muesli instead of granola. I use the recipe from cookieandkate.com, but omit the dark chocolate chips. It has all the granola ingredients, but only 3 tablespoons of maple syrup. It isn’t quite as crispy as granola but still filling.

    4. “Malted barley extract is made by sprouting and heating the barley grain. Once the grain begins to sprout, they generate enzymes which convert the barley’s starch into sugar. This sugar is extracted from the barley by soaking the grain in water.”

      So, it may be sugar, but it comes from sprouting and basic fermentation, so it’s a diluted form of natural sugar — lots better for you than corn syrup!

  71. We make our own granola for this very reason.

    Rolled Oats (6c), chopped walnuts (1c), sunflower seeds (1c), cinnamon (1 tsp), salt (1 pinch), and real maple syrup for sweetness (1/4 to 1/2 cup). Mix and place on a half-sheet pan at 350 for 30 minutes, stirring halfway through. Add 1 cup of dried fruit (raisins) afterwards.

    1. The Puffins got us! My boys don’t eat cereal often. More of a treat/snack then anything, but still…we will go back to plain cheerios…and maybe throw in some Kix. Go figure! Guess it really is mom approved! lol

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