How to Choose a Healthy Cereal: 3 Tips.

You’d never start the morning with a bowl full of sugar, right? After all, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It’s interesting, then, that so many cereals list sugar as their primary ingredient.

In fact, according to The Environmental Working Group, Kellogg’s Honey Smacks, Post Golden Crisp and Kellogg’s Froot Loops Marshmallow cereals are some of the worst offenders. They contain 55.6%, 51.9% and 48.3% sugar by weight respectively. Needless to say, it’s not a great way to start your morning.

Finding healthy cereals has become a pet hobby of mine. And with so many high sugar and unhealthy options, it’s not easy to find smart choices.

In general, I have the criteria:

  1. Whole grains listed as primary ingredients. This one is easy. Rather than reading misleading marketing claims, look at the actual ingredients. What do you see? If the first ingredients are whole grain wheat, whole grain oats, rolled whole oats or whole wheat, etc., then you’re off to a good start. If the world “whole” is missing before each grain, assume that it is refined and less healthy.
  2. Contains at least five grams of fiber. Most Americans don’t get enough fiber - but breakfast is an easy way to start the day right. High fiber diets may lower the risk of colon cancer, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes - and fiber helps normalize bowel movements and lower cholesterol. Fiber even facilitates weight loss by minimizing blood sugar spikes and helping dieters to feel full and satisfied.
  3. No added sugar. This one is huge. Most of us get way more than enough sugar, and it’s really not needed for a delicious and satisfying breakfast cereal. Keep in mind that marketers are sneaky, and that sugar is often disguised by other names like brown rice syrup, barley malt and molasses. Some cereals, like those with dried fruits, will contain some naturally occurring sugar - but ensure that additional sugar isn’t added in the ingredients.

So which cereals make the cut? Not many. I’m a big fan of the Engine 2 line - which I’ve only been able to find at Whole Foods Market. Alpen’s “no sugar added” muesli is also a smart choice that’s more widely available.

Does it take a little extra time and effort to find a healthy cereal? Sure. But breakfast sets the tone for the rest of your day… and you’re so worth it.

Do you have a favorite healthy cereal? Let me know in the comments below. Does it pass all three of my criteria?

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  1. The highest fibre oatmeal available (I found 20%, though they have lowered it to 16%). Add a tablespoon of the best Omega-3 nuts (that you yourself grind in a jar you keep in the ‘fridge). Tbs. psyllium AND flax or linseeds (don’t know exactly what they are named). Low fat milk and, for sweetness, a mass of frozen blueberries, 1/4 tsp. cinnamon (health benefits) and small spoon of date syrup (sweet, but made only from dates).
    It gets regular and second nature. Lots of fiber. Fills you up. You have to eat it slowly. And you don’t retain the nasty stuff in your intestines.

  2. When I eat cereal, which isn’t often, I have standard muesli with dried apple and raisins mixed through lean quark instead of milk. Which, if my schedule tells me to eat that, is about the only sugar I take in in a day, Otherwise my sugar comes from preserves or jam.

  3. I usually have weetabix, they have about 10% fibre, and it’s mostly wholegrain 😀 Although it does have sugar listed as an ingredient, there is only a small amount

  4. I like Alpen’s museli, but now, I have a new allergy to almond and can’t find any replacement. I can eat cocked almond, but not raw. Now I usually eat bagels instead. I can’t stand that my milk taste sugar more then milk!

  5. Any of the Ezekiel brand cereal or other grain products, other than the Cinnimon Raison, are high in fiber, protein and contain no sugar. I eat it with a table spoon of goji berries, a table spoon of cocoa nibs, a sliced banana and a half cup of rice milk. It’s a very good start to the day!

  6. I’d go with what Philipp says too - porridge/oatmeal (is there a difference between the two?) really is the best way to start to day plus there are tonnes of different ways to serve it up. I like mine with seeds and bananas. With the sweetness of the bananas, there’s no need for any extra sweeteners or sugar and it definitely keeps you filled up until lunch.

  7. christopher says:

    my take Weetabix-muesli-or plain oatmeal.

  8. Coach’s Oats

  9. Try to find Uncle Sam’s. it has a number of whole grains, including flax seed and nothing else.

  10. I don’t eat cereal often, but my choices include any Ezekiel brand, or Uncle Sam. Mahdi offers a 7 grain cereal , which has only the puffed grains as ingredients. I’ve seen bulk bags of other puffed grains at Whole Foods and Sprouts… love muesli as well!

  11. so great to see this, i’ve been looking for alternatives to my current favorite, Kellogg’s Special K Protein which tastes really good, but has corn syrup in it etc. excited to try these alternates.


  1. […] Not to single out raisin bran, most cereals are loaded in added sugars. In many breakfast cereals, sugar is the second ingredient. Sometimes it’s the first. As such, it’s important to read the nutrition information and ingredients carefully. In fact, I’ve written an entire article about buying healthy cereal. […]