The Healthiest Low-Sugar Breakfast Cereals That Still Taste Great
Sure we all loved picking the sugary marshmallows out of the Lucky Charms but now we know they have 12 grams of sugar per serving. And those fistfuls of Cap'n Crunch straight out of the box? They manage to scoop in 10 grams of added sugar. But even as Americans are wise to the fact that most breakfast cereals are sugar bombs masquarading as a healthy start to the day, we are still eating cereal by the boxful. In a recent survey, nearly 300 million Americans copped to making cereal their favorite breakfast, more than toast, eggs, or fruit.
How to find a healthier-for-you breakfast cereal? It's not hard if you know what to look for. Some cereals are full of fiber, protein, and micronutrients. You just have to find one that also tastes good. That's what our taste test was all about. We set out to find the healthiest cereal that still tastes great, not like eating the cardboard box it came in.
How to Choose a Healthy Cereal that Tastes Great
You would be forgiven for not knowing which cereals are healthiest by looking at the front of the box, which often promises to deliver heart health, fiber, or nutrients. The only way to know if you're choosing your cereal wisely is to turn the box around and check the nutrition label, which will let you in on the truth.
Face it, cereal is misunderstood. But who's fault is that? Once we educate ourselves, it's up to us to find cereals that are both healthy and tasty. And it's possible. Start with a few simple rules: There should be less sugar and more fiber, which means that the cereal is likely less processed and will help you keep blood sugar stable throughout your morning. Anything with over 3 grams of sugar per serving is to be put back on the shelf. Instead, look for those that deliver at least 5 grams of fiber per serving.
Other than plain rolled oats or unsweetened wheat bran (the hard outer layer on the seed) which are high in fiber, most breakfast cereals that come in a colorful box are laden with carbs and low in fiber.
Most cereals are so high in sugar that they account for one-third of your total recommended daily calories of the day. Knowing that, cereal could be considered a dessert food. Most highly processed cereals have also been stripped of their natural nutrients. That includes most granola, which is basically an unreconstituted oatmeal cookie.
Simply put, when buying cereal, don't believe the front of the box. Instead, turn it around and find the nutrition label. For the healthiest choices, search for those with the least amount of sugar (less than 3 grams per serving), and most fiber (aim for 5 grams per serving).
Cereal Can Be Healthy, If You Choose High-Fiber Ones
While avoiding sugar bombs that are high in calories, the secret to choosing a healthy cereal is to find one lost in added sugar and high in fiber. Shoot for those with 5 grams a serving.
High-fiber cereal provides the most substantial health benefits and studies have linked high l fiber diets with lower cancer risk. A high-fiber breakfast can also help the body maintain blood sugar levels and help regulate digestion. High fiber in cereal can also help reduce the risk for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases
The biggest tips for choosing the healthiest cereal is to find the lowest sugar, aim for higher fiber, read the ingredient list, and add some ingredients of your own. For example, choose some vegan yogurt, nuts, or a selection of your favorite fruits for your morning meal.
Check the label for micronutrients. Most cereals are fortified to add back in micronutrients lost in the processing, including magnesium, potassium, and calcium. Look for cereals that contain zinc, copper, manganese, vitamin B, Vitamin E, thiamin, and folate.
Are Breakfast Cereals Vegan?
Several major cereal brands are vegan – if that is what you are looking for – since they contain no animal products at all, including Cap'n Crunch's Peanut Butter Crunch, and Kellogg's Mini Wheats. But anyone who loves Lucky Charms, Honey Nut Cheerios, Special K, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, and Rice Krispies, each of these may contain animal-derived ingredients
Why? Major cereal companies rely on several popular (and sneaky) animal byproducts in the ingredients. Before purchasing your favorite cereal, check the ingredient list to see if anything shows up that is an animal product.
- Milk-Based Proteins: If you're avoiding milk, and pouring oat or almond milk on your cereal, you may not realize it already contains dairy protein isolates.
- Honey: The ingredient that helped Honey Nut Cheerios or Honeycombs get their name.
- Vitamin D3: This vitamin is often not vegan because most is made from sheep's wool.
- Gelatin: The same ingredient found in marshmallows is also often used in popular cereals including Rice Krispies and Lucky Charms.
- Refined White Sugar: Some sugar is refined using bone char, meaning it is not vegan. Organic cane sugar does not use bone char, making it a good replacement.
Choose Your Favorite Vegan Milk
Even though there are some dry cereal lovers, a good plant-based cereal deserves proper dairy-free milk. Luckily, the plant-based milk market is one of the fastest-growing vegan industries worldwide. The plant-based milk market is expected to reach $30.79 billion by 2031, according to Future Market Insights.
Instead of eating cereal without any milk, there are plenty of plant-based options perfect for whatever cereal you decide on. From Oatly to Moola, check out The Beet's favorite plant-based milk to accompany your healthy, vegan cereal.
The Healthiest Breakfast Cereals That Are Vegan and Don't Contain Honey
Bob's Red Mill Muesli Fruit and Seed
Eaten hot or cold, Bob’s Red Mill’s Muesli delivers a simple, tasty breakfast option, filled with nutritious grains, nuts, and dried fruit. Containing 5 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber per serving, this cereal ranks as one of the most gut-healthy options you can find. Fans who have reviewed Bob’s on Amazon tell you it’s best to soak your muesli in yogurt or milk overnight to soften the grains and provide a juicier bite. And they’re right! Choose your favorite oat milk or dairy-free yogurt and prepare your breakfast the night before to start your morning off right!
Total Fat 3.5g, Saturated Fat 1g
Ezekial 4:9 Sprouted Whole Grain Cereal - Almond
You may know Ezekial’s high-protein bread, but the company also makes cereal sold in a striking gold-colored box that is hard to miss on the shelf. Named after the verse Ezekial 4:9 which reads: “Take wheat and barley, beans and lentils, millet and spelt; put them in a storage jar and use them to make bread for yourself.” Or, in this case, cereal. The Almond flavored Whole Grain Cereal is packed with 8 grams of protein and 6 grams of fiber per serving. This flourless cereal contains less than 1 gram of sugar and no saturated fat. For a health boost in the morning, then try Ezekial 4:9.
Total Fat 3g, Saturated Fat 0g
Forager Project Organic Grain-Free O’s – Chocolate
Forager’s chocolate cereal provides a cereal so tasty that you won’t believe it’s actually nutritious. With 5 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber, this grain-free cereal surpasses other leading brands. The indulgently chocolate flavor somehow manages to taste like kids’ cereal but without the usual added sugar. Made from chickpeas, navy beans, and pea protein, this plant-based cereal gives chocolate lovers a reason to rejoice.
Total Fat 1.5g, Saturated Fat 0g
Post Grape Nuts
You might not get excited about Grape Nuts when you first try them, but these highly nutritious, plant-based nubs are actually high in protein and add a much-desired crunch to your parfait or other cereal bowls. Add your favorite fruits or non-dairy yogurt to this crunchy cereal for a healthy start to your morning. With just 1 gram of fat (and zero sat fat), 6 grams of protein, and 7 grams of fiber per serving, you can feel great about starting your day with a 1/2cup of Grape Nuts or make it an any-time snack.
Total Fat 1g, Saturated Fat 0g
One Degree Brown Rice Cacao Crisps
Going plant-based means that you probably had to give up the snap, crackle, pop of your favorite classic Rice Kripsies, but try One Degree’s Brown Rice Cacao Crisps which satisfies the same craving. These are a healthier version of your beloved childhood Cocoa Krispies. With all organic ingredients, One Degree assures that everything in the box comes from “farmers we know.” This low-fat cereal is perfect for a heart-healthy breakfast.
Total Fat 2g, Saturated Fat 0.5g
Barbara's Puffins - Peanut Butter
Barbara’s Puffins can be enjoyed with your favorite plant-based milk or straight out of the box. This crunchy peanut butter cereal is highly addictive, giving cereal lovers a low-fat option with 3 grams of protein per cup. The peanut butter flavor manages to be not too sweet, but still tastes like a treat. This corn-based cereal uses real peanut butter to keep you coming back to pour another bowl.
Total Fat 2.5g, Saturated Fat 0.5g
Three Wishes Cinnamon
Three Wishes manages to do the impossible by granting your wish for low-sugar cereal that still tastes like a treat. With 8 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber per serving, this cereal is one of the most nutrient-dense options you can find. Made with chickpea, tapioca, organic cane sugar, monk fruit, and pea protein, this allergen-friendly cereal creates a delectable choice and a smart start to the day.
Total Fat 2g, Saturated Fat 0g